Martinez fireman remembers mother-in-law after fatal fire

Agatha Murphy (center) died from smoke inhalation from a fire in Evans. (WRDW-TV)
Agatha Murphy (center) died from smoke inhalation from a fire in Evans. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012

MARTINEZ, Ga. -- When a fire consumes a home, it leaves little behind. Clothes, pictures -- all gone.

For Fire Department Chaplain Richard Thigpen, the loss of his mother-in-law will leave the biggest hole in his heart.

"She was a mother/grandmother to my kids, but she was my best friend,” Thigpen said.

A devastating loss for fireman Richard Thigpen.

The fire that took his home and belongings also took his 79-year-old mother-in-law Agatha Murphy.

"Right now she's in heaven and got them wings on her. Special lady," Thigpen said.

“She'd call you up and say what's going on turkey-buzzard? Or what's going on bird? And ya know, she was a cut-up and that was just the way she was,” recalled grandson Sean Murphy.

Thigpen's house on Sir Galahad drive went up in flames Thursday afternoon.

Murphy had to be rescued from the house and taken to the hospital. She died Friday night from smoke inhalation.

As a chaplain for the fire department, Thigpen says he's not used to being on this side of a tragedy.

"Been on the other side many times, but when I pulled up to my yard and seen what I seen, it hit home, and I was just to the point, what do I do?” he asked.

People are already stepping into action.

The Martinez Fire Department has started a donation collection at their headquarters.

“As the brotherhood of the fire service, we are standing with him as well. It's to help him get back on his feet, essentially starting over at this point," Battalion Chief Brent Willis said.

"I lost everything. I lost everything,” Thigpen said.

Murphy's grandson remembers taking her to doctor's appointments.

“She would introduce me. We'd walk into the doctor's appointment, and she'd always say this is my grandson and my best friend. She lost a daughter in 2001, and she's always said I can't wait until I get to see her again, so she went to heaven to be with her,” he said.

As this family starts to heal, they hope other families will appreciate time with their loved ones.

“Every day you wake up, before you go to bed, tell your family members you love them. Give them a hug. Tell them you love them because you just don't ever know,” Thigpen said.

The Martinez Fire Department is taking up monetary donations, but one of Richard's neighbors, 18-year-old Allyson Coghlan, is collecting donations, too.

She is also collecting things like clothes, canned food and toiletry items. If you want to help out, contact Coghlan through her email address:

As for what caused the fire, investigators are still working on that.

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