74-year-old man dies in Winston-Salem apartment fire

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Officials say an electrical short in a lamp caused an apartment fire which killed a 74-year-old man on New Walkertown Road Wednesday morning.

James Hatcher, known as “Papa” by his neighbors, died from smoke inhalation and heat.

Firefighters found Hatcher lying unconscious on the floor at the front door of his apartment just before 4 a.m.

"I was like Hatcher, Hatcher,” said Steven Couthen, his caretaker. “There was no response."
"It's tragic,” said Winston Salem Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Chris Langham.

Langham says there was no smoke alarm inside the apartment at the East Gate Village complex.

Since Saturday, five people have died in house or apartment fires in Forsyth and Davidson counties.

Langham says in at least two of the fires, victims could have been warned.

"Recent fatalities that we've had did not have working smoke detectors in the home," he said.

On Tuesday, a fire at a mobile home in Wallburg killed a mother and her two children. Investigators haven't said whether the home had an alarm or not but say having one could be the difference between life and death.
"Two thirds of all fire deaths occur in a home that did not have a working smoke detector," Langham said.

Jeffrey Joyce lived next door to Hatcher.

"He's our papa,” he said. “We're going to miss him."

Joyce says he wishes he would have been able to alert his friend about the fire in time.

"I was asleep this morning,” Joyce said. “I didn't hear if he did knock. I just feel like maybe if I had just been awake I could have helped prevent something."

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