THOMASVILLE, N.C. -- Almost 10 years after a fire took their home, a Thomasville family says it has a single, working smoking alarm to thank for the lives they live today.
"To tell the truth about it, I didn't have time to get afraid," said Clara Mae Farabee.
Farabee was home with her sister, Betsy, in 2005 when their home, which stood for 81 years, went up in flames. She and her sister didn't even notice the fire -- that is, until the smoke alarm got their attention.
"I said 'Betsy, I gotta get you out of here,'" Farabee exclaimed. "'Because this house is on fire.'"
Clara Mae's niece was on her way home from church when she found out what happened.
"I saw clouds of thick smoke, and I just had a gutsy feeling," said Maxine Ashe. "My heart was in my throat because I saw two [ambulances], and it just really threw me. All I could see was them being burned in the fire."
Thankfully, the sisters had two things: training and a working smoke alarm.
"That's what saved their lives, and I thank God every day," said Ashe.
Local firefighters are working hard to get the word out about the importance of smoke alarms in homes.
"They do save lives," said Dolly Hulin of the Thomasville Fire Department. "Fire doubles every 30 seconds and, depending on what we have in our home, that's not a lot of time to get out."
The department got approval for a state grant Thursday. The grant will help the department pay for its community fire safety lessons. Hulin and other firefighters hope the grant will help get the word out about smoke alarms and fire safety.
And after a loss, the family is spreading its own message.
"I would advise everyone to please get a smoke detector," said Ashe.
There have been five deadly fires in the last eight days in the Piedmont-Triad. And, firefighters tell WFMY News 2 two-thirds of homes that catch fire do not have a working smoke alarm. Already in 2014, 19 people in North Carolina have died in house fires across the state.