Newspaper carrier comes to the rescue

Woman spots house fire, alerts Lenoir City family just in time

By Bob Fowler
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LENOIR CITY - One family on Thanksgiving weekend was most grateful for a small twist of fate: The News Sentinel was printed and delivered a bit early Saturday morning.

Newspaper carrier Carston Jane McKee was running her route about 45 minutes earlier than normal that day when she saw a fire on the porch of a log cabin on an isolated country road.

McKee ran up, pounded on windows and screamed.

She awakened the family, who ran from the house barefooted after a brief, futile attempt to quell the blaze.

One minute later, the house was engulfed in flames.

Shawn Dunsmore, wife Charlene and their 8-year-old son, James Paul Dunsmore, called J.P., escaped unscathed.

"She (McKee) saved our lives. She really did," Charlene Dunsmore said Monday. "I know that woman will be rewarded in heaven one day."

"We can't thank her (McKee) enough,'' said Shawn Dunsmore's aunt, Mary Ruth Dunsmore. "She went above and beyond. They're alive today because of what she did."

"It could have been anybody," McKee said. "That could have been my brother's house on fire. I hope the favor's returned in case I ever need that type of help."

McKee on Monday still didn't know the names of the people she saved.

McKee and her husband, Sam McKee, have been delivering the News Sentinel in the Lenoir City area since January.

"We had actually gotten our papers earlier that night," she said. "It was the holiday thing."

McKee said she was delivering a paper to a house on Dunsmore Road, located off Cardwell Chapel Road in the Eaton's Crossroads area when she noticed "something different."

"I glanced up there," she said. "I sightsee, I guess. I saw something on the porch and looked again and said, 'That's a fire.' "

McKee, 29, had two of her five children with her: 15-year-old stepdaughter Amanda McKee and her 11-year-old son, Jeremis Bivens.

She said she immediately called 911. "While I was waiting for them to pick up (the phone), I ran to the log cabin and started beating on the windows," she said.

"As soon as the lady opened up the front door, the fire was right next to the door."

Charlene Dunsmore said the fire started in the basement of their home, shot up onto the porch, and then crept into the house through a closet next to the front door.

"We thought it was small fire," she said. "I didn't realize the whole basement was engulfed."

She said the log cabin, valued at more than $200,000, was less than two years old.

Dunsmore said the family's two teacup poodles, Charlie and Banjo, died in the blaze.

McKee said she stayed on the scene for nearly an hour, answering authorities' questions, before returning to her paper route.

Bob Fowler, News Sentinel Anderson County editor, may be reached at 865-481-3625.