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Friends narrowly escape mobile home fire
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Michael Reid was sitting in his room playing a video game online about 5:20 a.m. on Sunday when he happened to glance at his window and saw an orange glow behind his blackout curtains.

“I thought somebody was just screwing around on the porch. … I went outside to see,” he said.

When he opened the door he saw “just (a) wall of flame. So I slammed the door and took off running,” he said.

The porch of Reid’s mobile home on Meadowlane Drive was in flames, and the fire was quickly spreading.

Reid’s roommates woke to him screaming that there was a fire.

Brianna Bumgarner said, “I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I thought he was talking about like a grease fire, so I ran to the living room to see if we could put it out. I saw the porch. … It was already burnt up. It was making its way towards the living room.”

They, Bumgarner’s boyfriend, Allen Amatuccio, Reid, and Kelsey Conner made it out.

Their two dogs, a boxer mix named Buddy and a Yorkshire terrier mix named Benji, and their two cats, a Siamese named Venus and an orange tabby named Reese, did not.

Amatuccio said that as they fled the growing fire, they thought that their animals were following, but there was little time to check on them.

They recently have been preparing to start a business breeding and selling reptiles, so there were 19 snakes in the house, and firefighters were able to rescue 15 of them.

Otherwise, they lost almost everything they owned.

Amatuccio and Bumgarner had intended to celebrate their six-year anniversary on Sunday. Bumgarner said her plan was to work, then come home to Amatuccio, who was going to make dinner for them.

Instead, they spent Sunday trying to absorb the loss of their home, their belongings, and their pets. On Monday, they were calm — Bumgarner said she had run out of tears — but still seemed shellshocked.

Reid, who struggles with insomnia, said he is grateful he was awake — if they all had been sleeping, he thinks they might have died. The friends he was online gaming with heard him trying to wake the others, figured out Caldwell County’s emergency number, and called for help.

April Bivens, Bumgarner’s mother, said that Brianna called her frantically, and “all I heard was the screaming. ... I didn’t know what was going on.” In a panic herself, she got dressed and hurried to the mobile home.

The mobile home was owned by Bivens’ mother, Betty Pritchard, and it was not covered by an insurance plan.

Deputy Chief Kenny Story said that investigators think that the fire was caused by a heater that had an exhaust pipe that opened near the deck. Somehow, he said, the heater ignited something on the deck, and the flames quickly spread to the rest of the mobile home.

Bumgarner said that the group’s first priority is to figure out what to do about their reptiles, as the equipment used to keep them was destroyed in the fire. Then, she said, they’ll try to find a place to live together. Right now, they are staying with family.

“We just need to get in a place and get settled,” she said.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Mulberry Recreation Center hires new athletic director
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As a young athlete, Katelin Cooke spent her childhood watching her father, Tim, pursue a career in athletics, working as the athletic director for Lenoir Parks and Recreation.

This year, Cooke, 29, of Granite Falls followed in his footsteps.

Cooke was hired in January as the interim athletic director and parks manager for the department, and in April the city announced that she was hired permanently.

"I grew up in and around parks and rec. I loved it," she said. "It was a dream as a kid to be able to just play sports all the time."

Cooke grew up in Granite Falls and graduated from South Caldwell High School, then went to the University of Georgia for one year, until she came home and transferred to Lenoir-Rhyne University. She majored in religious studies but ended up working for four years at the Lenoir Aquatic and Fitness Center as the senior aquatics specialist, maintaining the pools and managing the lifeguards.

She said that after she heard that Doug Main, the athletic director for the Parks and Recreation department at the time, was leaving his position in December, she spoke to Parks and Recreation Director Kenny Story about the position.

“I was kind of looking for a little bit of a change,” she said. “And I grew up around athletics and I loved athletics, so I wanted to explore different parts of parks and recreation.”

Cooke said as the athletic director she mainly manages youth athletics: baseball, softball and basketball. She said the recreation center hosts baseball and softball in the spring and the fall, and then there are both summer and winter basketball leagues. Officials hope to add volleyball there too, she said.

The other part of her job as parks manager includes responsibilities such as checking on playgrounds and greenways to make sure everything is up to code and safe, Cooke said. She and Story work together to make sure everything runs smoothly and that residents have safe access to city facilities.

Starting as the new athletic director and parks manager during the pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse, Cooke said.

“It’s been a blessing in the sense that it’s kind of been a slow start, and I’ve been able to like ease into the position,” she said. “Numbers are a little bit lower this year; it makes it easier to get to know everyone.”

She said the challenges have mainly been trying to abide by COVID-19 regulations and working around state and local mandates. Safety is the top priority, she said, but it has been tough sometimes trying to satisfy kids and parents.

Although her job has come with specific challenges, she said she loves the work she does.

“I love working with the kids playing sports. I love getting to know the parents and just being a part of this community,” she said. “When you’re in a job like athletic director, you just get to know so many people, grandparents, parents and kids. So it’s just really exciting.”

Reporter Carmen Boone can be reached at 828-610-8723

Lenoir woman injured in shooting
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A Lenoir woman was injured after someone shot into her home early Sunday, the Lenoir Police Department said.

Shatyhia Paul, 23, taken to Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee with bullet wounds in her arm and lower back after someone shot into her home on Frontier Way about 1 a.m., Capt. Andy Wilson said.

After she was shot, Paul got in a car to go to the hospital, and a deputy pulled over the car because of the speed it was going, Wilson said. She was taken to Caldwell Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Johnson City Medical Center.

Police found bullet holes in a vehicle parked in front of her mobile home and in the exterior wall of the mobile home, Wilson said.

Nobody had been arrested on Monday.

A next-door neighbor, Tyler Piercy, said he went camping for the weekend and returned home to find what he thinks is a bullet hole in one of his vehicles.

“I’m moving ASAP,” he said. “I can’t have this. I got five babies.”

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.