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Boy dies in house fire; brother critical

In the wake of a devastating house fire that resulted in the death of a little boy and severe injuries to his brother, the community is coming together to offer support to the family.

Antoine Melton is a father of four and heard the sirens late in the night March 19. He said he didn’t know what was going on but when he turned on the news Wednesday morning, his heart broke.

“You hear about these things happening in other places, but when it happens close to home, you really start to care,” he said.

Melton and others learned that a home off Legion Hut Road in the Cooleemee area had burned, and that two young children had been taken to the hospital as a result of the fire. One of them, SirMarcus Nixon, 8, died days later. As of Monday, his brother, Samuel,  remained in the hospital in critical condition.

Cooleemee Fire Chief Doug Aldredge said the SBI is investigating the cause of the fire and should release that information soon. It was contained to the room where the boys were. A working smoke detector alerted another child in the house, who woke up the two adults and one other child who were in the home at the time.

Aldredge lives nearby and was first on the scene. He said he broke down the door to the bedroom where the boys were and could see them but because of the significant amount of heat and smoke and the fact he was not wearing any protective gear, he was not able to enter the room; but firefighters were not far behind him.

Within five minutes, the fire was out and the boys had been rescued from the room.

It was just luck, he said, that there were six firefighters at the station at that time of the night, close to 11 p.m., as well as a few firefighters from other departments who just happened to be near the area. Units from Cooleemee, Jerusalem, Center and Mocksville responded, as well as police, deputies, the Davie EMS and Davie Rescue Squad.

“We certainly wished for a better outcome, but the way things played out, we couldn’t have asked for a better response. This is also why we push checking your smoke detectors and having an escape plan,” Aldredge said.

While the house did not burn to the ground, Aldredge said there was a significant amount of smoke and heat damage.

Melton, vice president of the TBM (True Black Men) motorcycle group, said the situation really hit him hard and he decided to do something to help the family. Along with two other motorcycle groups, the Twisted Brotherhood and Brothers Keepers, and a car club from Rowan County, Melton collected donations and the groups formed a line of travel to the hotel where the family is staying in Winston-Salem. He met with the boys’ grandmother, Wanda Nixon, and two other children and gave them the cash and clothes he’d collected.

Melton said he is also renting, with money from his own pocket, a storage unit for any large items that are donated to the family.

Nixon, he said, has been receiving support from many in the community and especially from Cooleemee Elementary School, notorious for supporting the children and families in the school as if they were all related. Marcus was in first grade there, his brother a kindergarten student.

Melton said his efforts have nothing to do with him and everything to do with the family, and he urges others to come together for the family, especially since there are children involved.

He also talked about a fundraiser that has been set up on Facebook, and the person responsible for that is another county resident who does not know the family but wanted to do something to help. She has a special reason for that.

“I endured a tragedy about seven years ago when my first husband died, and Davie really stepped up to help me. I saw the news about the fire and was able to find Ms. Wanda on Facebook and began communicating with her about what their needs were,” said Kari Earnhardt.

During the course of trying to collect items, a button popped up on Facebook asking her if she wanted to set up a non-profit fundraiser, so she did. The first goal of $5,000 was quickly met and exceeded, and 40 hours into the fundraising, almost $7,000 had been raised.

Earnhardt met Wanda at the hotel Sunday and has decided to continue her efforts, hoping to get a local furniture company to donate furniture when the family is able to find housing, to get a contractor-builder to help provide that housing, and hoping to secure donations from local retailers. She has even contacted the Ellen DeGeneres show.

Thankfully, she said, the family did have renter’s insurance and they do have temporary housing in the hotel provided by the Red Cross, but that is short term.

Anyone who would like to donate to the family (Earnhardt said gift cards would be helpful so they can purchase only what they need) can drop donations off at the Food Lion near Sonic in Mocksville or at the elementary school when they are back in session April 1. (This week is spring break.)

Donations may also be made to the fundraising page on Facebook called Nixon Family From Davie County House Fire. Earnhardt said they have all the food they need and are having to find room to store what they’ve received.

As if the family hadn’t already been hit too hard, the home was looted a few days after the fire and several large items, including a television and washer-dryer, were stolen. Sheriff J.D. Hartman said anyone with information about that crime should contact the sheriff’s department.