NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – A Northumberland County volunteer emergency responder found himself without a place to live after his home burned to the ground over the weekend.
Melvin Cockrell was sleeping in his bedroom early Saturday morning, when he woke up to what he describes as the loudest crackling he’s ever heard.
“I woke up and looked at the door, and there was a bright orange glow around the crack of the door,” Cockrell said.
He was able to only grab a pair of paints, his dog and his emergency radio as he fled the house.
From his driveway, he called dispatchers to alert them to the fire and watched as his everything he owned burned in the fire.
“I was outside maybe two minutes at best before the house was fully engulfed,” Cockrell said.
Fire crews were able to eventually get the fire under control, but by then most of the house had burned to the ground.
“You see what other people go through, but it never prepares you to go through it yourself,” says Cockrell about being a volunteer EMT whose home has been reduced to charred wood and a brick frame.
In Northumberland County, all emergency response personnel work on a volunteer basis.
Cockrell’s home had been lived in by three different generations of his family. He had lived in the home, which sits near the Chesapeake Bay on Lighthouse View Drive, since 1999.
“Over 30 years of memory in here [the home], all burned up in one place,” Cockrell said while examining the damage. “With this being the family house and the family location, it just feels right to rebuild what we have."
Sunday morning was the first time Cockrell had seen his home since he escaped the heavy smoke and flames Saturday morning.
Walking with his sister around the place where they grew up, Cockrell shared a tearful embrace with her only feet from a pile of burnt rubble.
“Try as we may to put ourselves in his shoes, you really cannot do it,” Mid-County Volunteer Rescue Squad President Larry Wagner said.
Mid-County Volunteer Rescue Squad Cpt. Kauffman let Melvin spend the night at her home Saturday night.
“We’ll be there for him and get him back to where he needs to be. He’s given so much to this community,” Kauffman said.
In order to being the process of rebuilding, the Mid-County Volunteer Rescue Squad has set up a relief fund to help Cockrell.
Cash, checks, or even clothing can be sent to:
Mid-County Volunteer Rescue Squad
P.O. Box 355
Heathsville, Va. 22473.