Man perishes in house fire Cause of blaze still under investigation

Assistant State Fire Marshal Jason Baltic sifts through rubble following
a Saturday fire that left one man dead (Photo by David Hedges)

By David Hedges Publisher
Times Record-Roane County Reporter

Two persons escaped an early Saturday morning fire that destroyed a Spencer home.

A third man wasn't as lucky.

Although the victim has not officially been identified, homeowner Gary Crihfield was already mourning the loss of his friend, Jason M. Montgomery. His friends knew the 27-year-old as "Red."

"Basically, he was my son, and I was his dad," according to Crihfield, 60, who said Montgomery had lived with him the past nine years.

"He was the size of a bear, and as strong as an ox. But when I told him to do something, he did it," said Crihfield. "He was a good person."

Crihfield, one of the two who escaped the burning home, said he was awakened around 4 a.m. He remains uncertain if it was the sound of a smoke detector going off or the smell of smoke that woke him.

Crihfield was sleeping in his bedroom, located on the top floor of his two-story home at 1258 Parkersburg Rd. The home had a full basement.

Crihfield said his first thought when he awoke was that someone had burned something in the kitchen.

"I started to go downstairs and I saw smoke everywhere," he said.

Crihfield returned to his bedroom and got a fire escape ladder he kept under his bed.

He said his wife, now deceased, insisted that he buy the ladder when the house was built 29 years ago.

"I was mad at her at the time because it cost so much," he said of the ladder. "But it saved my life."

As he was climbing down the ladder Crihfield said it was banging against the window of the bedroom immediately below his. That was where another friend, Christopher S. Anderson, 29, was asleep.

Anderson awoke from the noise and also climbed out the window.

Unsure of who else might still be in the home, Crihfield said he went to the front door of the home and saw there was too much smoke.

He tried to get in the basement door and also a kitchen door, but both were locked ... Rest of the story www.thetimesrecord.net

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