North Carolina Firefighter Suffers Heart Attack, Dies

A Morganton law enforcement veteran died late Sunday night, two days after suffering a heart attack while trying to put out a pair of fires in his own neighborhood.

The news about Kelly Michael Kincaid's collapse left Burke County law enforcement agencies reeling, along with the neighbors he was called to help Friday as a reserve firefighter.

The 41-year-old Burke County Sheriff's Office lieutenant had worked with the department for 19 years and also helped put out fires for the Morganton Department of Public Safety.

"I've just been praying every minute that he would make it," said Marsha Anderson, 65, a longtime friend, whose home Kincaid was trying to save. "But he did love fighting fires. At least he was doing what he loved to do."

Kincaid had just brought his wife home from outpatient surgery, when his pager blared just before midnight Friday, said Burke County Sheriff John McDevitt.

Two homes at Morehead and Evans streets were ablaze just three blocks from his house. He rushed to help, as he had done for years.

It was a scene of chaos even before Kincaid's heart stopped, neighbors recalled Sunday.

Anderson heard a bang. Then she realized the whole back of her house was on fire.

Another neighbor, a woman in her 70s, was trying to put to out the fire in the back of her home with a 2-quart pot.

Kincaid was among the first on the scene. But he collapsed by the side of one of the homes, McDevitt said, while running hoses to the back of a house. When emergency personnel spotted him, he had no detectable pulse and wasn't breathing.

A third neighbor, Sondra Middleton, 48, said she then saw a man pouring gasoline from a red 5-gallon container near her driveway.

"I was face to face with him. I said, `Hey what are you doing?' He finally looked up and I said it again, `What are you doing?' "

She said the man walked quickly away; she ran to police.

Middleton later helped identify a suspect. On Saturday authorities charged David Harold Carr, 34, who lived just blocks away, with two counts of first-degree arson.

"We're glad that an arrest was made so quickly ...," McDevitt said. "Even so, it provides little solace to our respective officers, and Kelly's family."

Doctors at Carolinas Medical Center removed Kincaid's ventilator around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the sheriff said. He was still breathing on his own hours later, but a hospital spokeswoman confirmed he died just before midnight.

McDevitt said Kincaid helped lead the department. When he wasn't working, putting out fires, organizing the July 4 fireworks display at Lake James or helping as a fill-in officer at Broughton Hospital, he was fishing.

"I've got a lot of enemies, I'm sure," McDevitt said. "But I don't know of an enemy he has."

Republished with permission of The Charlotte Observer.

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