A North Carolina man who had just left his third-shift job as a security guard rescued two of three children from a burning mobile home in what one firefighter called ``an inhuman feat.''
The 26-year-old rescuer, Scott Moore, said he acted on instinct in pulling brothers Dean and Cody Jones - ages 14 and 6, respectively - from a mobile home in Surf City, along the Intracoastal Waterway in Pender County.
Moore was unable to reach their 3-year-old sister Melissa, who died in the blaze.
``Once I heard the children, there wasn't any thinking. My only thought was to get them out,'' Moore said Monday.
Moore, who lives near Harrels in Sampson County, said he got off work about 2:30 a.m. Sunday and was on his way to his father's house when he saw the smoke at a singlewide mobile home.
``I went over to take a look, to see what was happening, and I heard the children screaming,'' he said.
He began breaking out windows until he found the children, pulling Dean and Cody to safety. When they were out, he reached back through the window, feeling for their sister, whom he could no longer hear.
But the smoke and flames pushed him back.
The boys were treated at the scene and did not require hospitalization. Melissa died from smoke inhalation, according to the state medical examiner's office.
Ken Bogan, Surf City fire marshal and assistant fire chief, described Moore's rescue as ``an inhuman feat. The amount of danger that he was in was amazing. The heat, smoke, flames were extraordinary. He was very fortunate to be able to do what he did.''
Family members said the children's paternal grandmother owned the mobile home, which was destroyed, and an adjacent home. Surf City is located about 115 miles south-southeast of Raleigh.
Randy Jones of Pine Level, the brother of father Russell Jones, said his brother had left the home briefly to buy milk.
If not for Moore, ``it would have been all three instead of one,'' Randy Jones said. ``As hard as it is to handle one loss, I'm not sure we could have handled three losses.''
Dean, who was supposed to start high school Monday, skinned his feet as he got out, Randy Jones said. Cody has a first-degree burn on his face, he said.
The children's mother, Tonya, died in April 2003 of cancer at the age of 35, said her father, Benny Narron of Middlesex. ``That little girl (Melissa) looked just like our daughter,'' Narron said Monday. ``You lose one and then you turn around, a year, three or four months later, and you lose your granddaughter. That's pretty hard.''
He said he hopes to meet Scott Moore and thank him for saving his grandsons. ``I certainly want to tell him that we appreciate what he did and are thankful the other two are OK,'' he said.
Narron said Dean told him that he kicked out a window and put Cody through it. ``He (Dean) was stifling and the man pulled him through,'' Narron said. ``Then he couldn't reach the little girl.''
He said Dean told him that he tried to escape the mobile home through a door, but was unable to get out.
Scott Moore's father Randy choked up on the phone when asked Monday what he thought of his son. ``I don't know how to say it. I really don't,'' he said softly. ``I'm just proud of him.''
Moore was more subdued about the rescue. ``If I had kids, I'd want them (neighbors) to do that if I couldn't be there,'' he said.
Firefighters desperately wanted to enter the home to try to save Melissa, but the roof had collapsed, making it too dangerous to enter, fire marshal Bogan said.
The cause of the fire had not been determined. Because someone died in the blaze, federal, state and local authorities are investigating, Bogan said.
A graveside service for Melissa Jones was to be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Oliver Cemetery in Pine Level. Parrish Funeral Home in Selma was handling the arrangements.