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Sutherlin man tries to rescue children in N.C. blaze

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Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 8:07 pm

A Sutherlin man is recovering from burns he suffered when he tried to rescue two children from a deadly house fire Saturday morning in Guilford County, N.C.

Steven Cosner, a father of four who will turn 33 Monday, said he had no choice but to attempt to save the children, who died in the fire.

“I just can’t stand by and watch somebody get hurt,” Cosner said during a telephone interview from University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill.

Cosner and a co-worker, Brenten Shaw, of Sutherlin, were heading to work in Burlington, N.C., along N.C. 61 North when they noticed smoke in the distance. As they approached the home, they saw three men outside, Cosner said. One of them — who turned out to be the children’s grandfather — said his “babies are in the house,” Cosner recalled.

The fire was first reported at 6:48 a.m. Saturday at 5913 N.C. 61 North in Gibsonville, and flames engulfed half the one-story home by the time firefighters arrived, the Greensboro News & Record reported. The grandfather, Fred Ridge, was home at the time of the fire and sustained burns to his hands and singed hair when he tried to rescue the children, according to the News & Record.

The victims, who were siblings, were identified as Jade Hawks, 1, and Matthew Ridge-Powls, 4, the newspaper reported.

The fire began when a space heater caused combustible materials in the living room to ignite, the News & Record reported.

Cosner and his friend tried to rescue the children from their bedroom window, but the smoke and heat were overwhelming.

“The smoke was so thick and black you couldn’t see 6 inches in front of you,” said Cosner, who works at Triangle Grading and Paving Co. in Burlington.

The wind shifted and Cosner said he caught a glimpse of a metal bed post. He hooked a rake around the leg of the bed, but threw the rake away and pulled the bed as far as he could. He and his co-worker grabbed the covers to slide the children toward them, but they didn’t move, Cosner said.

“I could see flames coming out of the wall when I moved the bed,” Cosner said.

Everything in the room ignited and the flames forced the pair away from the home, Cosner said.

“I looked back and saw 8-foot flames coming out of the window,” he said.

“It happened so fast,” he added.

The heat injured Cosner, giving him burns on his left arm and second-degree burns on his right arm.

Sam Duff, Cosner’s grandfather, said of his grandson’s selfless actions, “It doesn’t surprise me a bit.”

“I had to do something,” Cosner said. “I had to try and at least do something.”

Cosner has been in the hospital since the Saturday morning fire and had a skin graft done Tuesday. He plans to marry his fiance, Ashley Ellard, Monday and hopes to be out of the hospital by the weekend.

The medical bills will take a financial toll on Cosner, Duff said.

“He has four kids to take care of,” Duff said. “It’s going to be a little rough on him.”

Donations can be sent to Sam Duff, 205 Easy Run Road, Danville, VA 24540.

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