ALAMANCE CO, N.C. — The mood at the E.M. Holt Fire Department hasn’t been the same since Friday morning.
They got called to a fire just outside the Burlington city limits, where a woman was trapped in her home.
Firefighter Tyler Bowden, 25, was the first one to run in and try to save her.
“We all go through our careers hoping this never comes,” he said. “But our training kicks in. And when the time comes, we perform.”
Bowden said by the time he arrived to the house, the fire was very advanced.
“Visibility was just zero,” he said. “You base everything on your other senses. I was literally on my hands and knees and about my belly crawling through the house trying to locate her.”
Within moments, he found her body on the floor. He and another firefighter pulled her out, and their colleagues began CPR.
Unfortunately, it was too late. 40-year-old Kristina Rutledge was declared dead on the scene, and a medical examiner later determined she died of smoke inhalation. Her dog also died in the fire. Rutledge’s boyfriend lived there with her and survived.
E.M. Holt Fire Department Chief Mark Fuqua said the preliminary cause of the fire was determined to be kerosene heater.
“There were some kerosene heaters in the house and we’re thinking that probably was the cause of the fire,” Fuqua said. “The way she was burnt we’re thinking maybe it was an explosion.”
Fuqua wants to remind others not to refill kerosene heaters while they are already burning.
He said this is only the second fatal fire he’s seen in his 32 years as a firefighter.
Grief counselors will visit the fire department next week.