• Investigators: Woman trying to escape fire dies


    POLKVILLE, N.C. - A woman died in a house fire in Polkville Wednesday night, according to Cleveland County fire officials.

    Investigators said the fire started around 8 p.m. on Oak Drive. They believe the victim, Sharon Branch, was trying to escape.

    Branch suffered from multiple sclerosis and walking was a challenge.

    David Hawes got emotional when he talked about trying to save his neighbor.

    “She couldn’t walk good.  She had issues and problems,” he said.

    Also adding to the emotion on the scene of this fire last night is that the victim was the daughter, sister and niece of three fellow firefighters at the Polkville Volunteer Fire Department.

    They didn’t realize she was the victim until her father arrived while they were fighting the fire. This is a personal loss for many of them.

    Sharon Branch’s home was engulfed in flames by the time Hawes and other neighbors arrived trying to help her.

    "I tried to kick the back door in.  I had lung surgery and smoke inhalation. I couldn't -- I couldn't get her out.  It was too late," Hawes said.

    A firefighter who lives around the corner arrived minutes later, but attempting a rescue was difficult.
    Investigators believe the fire started accidentally somewhere in the den of the apartment.

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