Early morning warning

Woman escapes fire after newspaper carrier's quick action
Larry Sorrell walks through the living room of his rental home that was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily
Laura Sorrell sorts through her belongings outside her rental home that was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily
Larry Sorrell stands in the living room of his rental home that was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning.Rich Cooley/Daily

An early Sunday morning fire in Woodstock left a home heavily damaged and forced the evacuation of an occupant who was alerted to the danger by a newspaper carrier.

The fire at 89 North River Drive was reported to the 911 emergency dispatch center at 2:43 a.m.

Shannon Walters, service assistant with the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue, said a newspaper carrier traveling on her route notified the 911 center of the call. The carrier, Christina Miller, also knocked on the door of the burning single story home and awakened Laura Sorrell, who had been sleeping inside.

“I was heading down the road, and I just happened to look over, and I saw the roof on fire” Miller said.

Sorrell said 10-foot flames were shooting out of the roof by the time Miller knocked on the door.

“This is a back road, and the chances of someone driving by at 2:30 in the morning are slim to none,” Sorrell said.

Walters said firefighters arrived at the scene at 2:54 a.m. The fire destroyed the roof and attic before firefighters were able to put it out.

Sorrell and her husband received help from the Red Cross in relocating to the Hampton Inn in Woodstock where they plan to remain as they prepare to file claims with their insurance company and begin rebuilding efforts.

The couple moved from a local farm into the house only about three weeks ago.

“The roof is gone,” Walters said of the house. “It’s a mess, but it’s repairable.”

Sorrell, who had gone to bed about an hour and a half earlier, was still groggy from sleep when she answered Miller’s knocking on the door. Sorrell thought her husband, who was returning home from work around the same time the fire was reported, had locked himself out of the house and was waiting to be let inside.

“I told her, ‘the house is on fire,’ and I had to say it three times before she understood what I was saying,” Miller said of Sorrell.

Sorrell said she still didn’t realize the magnitude of the danger until after she went to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee.

“I heard the crackling in the ceiling, and I thought, ‘I better get out of here,'” Sorrell said.

The fire and rescue department has not made an official determination on the cause of the fire, but Sorrell said it started next to the chimney in the attic. The electricity in the kitchen and carport also failed around the same time.

“We’re not sure if it was the chimney or the electrical,” Sorrell said.

Sorrell said she is grateful that Miller was in the right place at the right time to warn her when the fire started. Three pet dogs also escaped unharmed.

“It’s just stuff,” Sorrell said of the property damaged or lost in the fire. “We’re all safe. That’s all that matters to me.”

A local charity, Shenandoah Valley Coalition for Christ, is organizing the collection of small household items for the Sorrells. Small items such such as toothpaste, socks, and underwear can be left at Shenandoah Video & Tan, 390 King St., Strasburg and Shenandoah Video & Tan, 442 W. Reservoir Road, Woodstock. Larger items can be left at On Second Thought, 476 N. Main St., Woodstock.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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