Fire chief stresses working smoke detectors after two people die in New Bern house fire

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – New Bern officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that two people died in a house fire that occurred a week ago.

The fire happened last Thursday at a home on 910 Meadows Street and two people inside were injured. Bags of clothes, books, furniture, and yellow tape could be seen strewn outside of the house on Thursday afternoon.

The city’s public information officer told WITN that homeowner Timothy Gibbons, 69, died late Thursday evening at CarolinaEast Medical Center, while 72-year-old Elizabeth Perry died early Friday morning.

Their deaths caught neighbors like Preston Rouse by surprise because he and Gibbons met up often to walk their dogs, Chase and Sport.

“I was looking forward to having a buddy to come over here and visit with on a regular basis, considering that he had a dog that my dog liked to play with,” Rouse said. “He and I liked to talk a lot about things like hunting, carpenter work, building or tearing things up. I’m going to miss him.”

The fire started when an outdoor heating source was placed too close to the house, the city said.

The one-story home had no working smoke detectors, but New Bern Fire and Rescue Division Chief Dennis Tyndall said he feels they’re important for everyone to have.

“You must check your smoke detectors once a month,” Tyndall said. “That’s the most vital tool you have to help you in the event of a fire because it’s going to alert you. Let you know there’s a danger in your house and you need to get out.”

Some homes come with smoke detectors already inside and others don’t, however Tyndall said either way, people should be checking to see.

“If you don’t have a way of checking your smoke detectors you can call your local fire department here in New Bern,” Tyndall said. “Call New Bern Fire and Rescue, we’ll be glad to come out check your smoke detectors for you. Evaluate the situation, let you know if you need more smoke detectors.”