CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. - One piece of Christmas garland was still wrapped around what used to be 59-year-old Stacy Messer's front porch.
Fire investigators said Messer died trying to escape a fast-moving fire that started in the back of his Catawba County home around 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
They found him near the door with his two dogs curled up next to him.
Firefighters were called around 6 a.m. to the mobile home on Lineberger Loop Road. When they arrived, fire crews reported flames and smoke engulfing the structure.
"It’s just a shock,” said Ronald Taylor, Messer’s brother-in-law.
Firefighters realized someone might be inside the home but they could not get inside because the flames were too intense.
Family members said Messer was alone in his home of 30 years when the fire broke out.
"He was a kind fella and he would do anything for anyone,” Taylor said. “He is just going to be missed.”
Investigators are still working to determine how the fire started but have ruled it accidental in nature.
"There have been multiple additions over time that had been added to the back of the mobile that made it a little bit more difficult for firefighters to maneuver in and get to the base of the fire,” said Rick Davis, of Sherrills Ford Terrell Rescue.
The flames were intense from the moment firefighters arrived.
A crew began working immediately to rescue Messer, but 75 percent of the house was already blazing.
"They encountered heavy flames, heavy heat and smoke conditions, which forced them back out of the structure,” Davis said.
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