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Man, 84, dies in Fort Mill house fire after saving wife

Jonathan McFadden
jmcfadden@heraldonline.com
Fort Mill fire house
Rachel Southmayd - rsouthmayd@heraldonline.com
The Williams Road home where officials say Kenneth Sloan died Wednesday night.

FORT MILL Kenneth "Kiss" Sloan grew tomatoes and cherries in his yard. He went fishing and cared for his ailing wife.

"He’d do anything in the world for you," said Opal Pittman, Sloan’s neighbor for the last 50 years. “Anything he could do in the world for you, he’d do it."

At about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sloan did for his wife yet again. As the inside of their home began to burn — the result of an electrical short-circuit in his wife’s lift chair — neighbors say 84-year-old Sloan got her out of the house before he went back inside.

Crews suspect he tried to extinguish the flames himself with a fire extinguisher.

Minutes later, Fort Mill, Flint Hill and Pleasant Valley firefighters swarmed Sloan’s Williams Road home, where Pittman said he lived with his wife, Avie, for more than 50 years.

They found him in the hallway. It appears he succumbed to the smoke, said Charles Williamson, an investigator with the York County Fire Marshal’s Office.

After taking him out of the house, crews began performing CPR before they handed him over to paramedics with Piedmont Medical Center, said Fort Mill Fire Chief Jeff Hooper.

He was pronounced dead on the scene, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. A cause of death was unavailable pending an autopsy later Thursday afternoon.

Sloan, Gast said, just celebrated his 84th birthday two weeks ago.

The fire has been ruled an accident, Williamson said. Officials believe the flames started when a wire from Avie Sloan’s electric lift chair in the living room shorted out. From there, the chair’s upholstery began to burn and the flames quickly spread into the kitchen.

Firefighters used about 1,500 gallons of water to knock out the fire, Hooper said.

Authorities estimate that the fire left about $50,000 in damage, Williamson said. The exterior is still intact.

“You can’t tell from the outside that it burned,” he said.

“The whole house wasn’t on fire,” said Pittman, who lives across the street from the couple. “There was just so much commotion down here. It was a disaster for awhile.”

When the fire first broke out, Pittman’s son, who lives with her and had just returned from a trip to the township, heard Avie Sloan’s cries for help. After calling 911, he got out of his truck and went to the house. It was dark inside. He tried finding the light switch, but was overwhelmed by the heat.

“Fire was shooting up everywhere on the floor; soot was getting in his eyes,” Pittman said of her son. “He said he wished he could have gotten there sooner. He wishes he could have known where the light switch was at.”

Pittman and her son watched as firefighters battled the flames and pulled Sloan out of the house.

“They finally got him out,” Pittman said.

By Thursday morning, Avie Sloan, 86, was still in the hospital, said Pittman, adding that she was unsure if her neighbor would return to live in the house, which fire officials said suffered heavy smoke damage.

“They were real nice neighbors,” Pittman said. “You couldn’t ask for better neighbors; I’ve known them for years.”

Pittman said she believes the couple lived at the Williams Road home for more than 50 years. They lived there alone, although a caretaker helped them during the day. She left every night at 6 p.m., Pittman said.

The couple had at least one son, who died two years ago, she said.

For years, they had been members of St. John’s United Methodist Church, said the Rev. Carl Hunsucker, the church’s pastor.

Hunsucker described Sloan as a “character,” who always had a funny story or “some type of tidbit or joke.”

He was “easy to deal with,” Hunsucker said.

Sloan busied himself with caring for his wife, fishing and maintaining a garden on the side of his house. In years past, he would often invite Pittman’s late husband to come over with a bucket so he could gather freshly grown tomatoes. Sloan also grew a cherry tree, Pittman said, and often picked cherries so he could make pies for his wife.

“He saw that she was taken care of,” Pittman said.

On Wednesday, it was pretty much the same.

“He got his wife out,” Pittman said. “That’s just like ‘Kiss’ Sloan.”

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