Fatal fire

By: Stephanie Baker
By: Stephanie Baker

A man is dead after a grass fire on the border of McDuffie and Columbia counties spreads to his home.

It happened at 320 County Line Road just after three o'clock Monday afternoon.

Neighbors tell News 12 the man was burning yard waste when the fire got out of control.

Rescue teams found 63-year-old Douglas M. Johnson's body lying just outside his home.

The fire re-kindled again near the home Monday night, a few hours after fire trucks left the scene.

All the wind and dry conditions really helped this fire along. It started Monday afternoon.
Flames scorched the house...and neighbor Henrietta Nowill remembers waving hello to her neighbor shortly before it all happened.

"30 minutes before the house caught fire, he was out burning the yard," Nowill says.

The fire was the next thing she saw.

"We were trying to find him, we couldn't find him,” Nowill says. “We looked around and yelled for him, but couldn't hear him."

Her screams got the attention of a hero.

Former firefighter Gerald Baker says, "These people over here were yelling, ‘There's a man in the house!!’"

Baker was just passing by when he saw the smoldering house. He fought his way through the thick smoke, searching for survivors.

He could only make it inside the front door where he found a little dog.

"I grabbed her and by the time I got out, the house was completely engulfed in flames,” Baker says.

A home engulfed in flames is exactly what emergency crews saw when they got to the scene at around three o'clock.

"The damage...it's a total loss to the house,” says Rusha Mac, Aiken County coroner and firefighter.

The tiny survivor is all that made it out.

"I'm gonna call him lucky I guess," Baker says.

The dog and the neighbors stood by, watching as the crews slowly pulled away and the ashes began to settle.

The man's body has been sent off for an autopsy. His mother was notified Monday evening.

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