85-year-old woman injured in house fire remains in critical condition

An 85-year-old Gastonia woman injured in a house fire Tuesday afternoon remained in critical condition Friday at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center burn unit in Winston-Salem.

Lillian Francis Maples was alone at her residence on Jay Avenue when the blaze was reported at 3:26 p.m.

Fire Inspector Chris Stowe with the Gastonia Fire Department said eyewitnesses reported that Maples was on a porch but went back into the house.

“We’re not sure why,” he said. “It might have been something she wanted to save.”

When firefighters arrived, Stowe said they found Maples unconscious inside and took her out through a window.

The fire started in the kitchen, but Stowe said authorities are still waiting on tests to come back to determine the official cause.

“The number one thing we tell people is that if they have a fire, get everybody out and stay out,” he said. “And call 911.”

Maples’ granddaughter, Allison Wallace Macaluso, posted this message on Facebook: “Just wanted to send a big THANK YOU to all the wonderful firefighters who saved my grandmother’s life on Tuesday afternoon. You gentlemen truly are our heroes.”

On Friday, 85-year-old Wayburn Gilbert, of Jay Avenue talked about Maples, who is a long-time friend and neighbor.

They met when Gilbert moved to the West Gastonia neighborhood more than 40 years ago.

“She was a nice person. I liked her,” said Gilbert. “Sometimes she’d walk down to my house and we’d sit and talk on the front porch. Sometimes I’d go up to her house and we’d visit. But we both got to where we couldn’t do that anymore.”

Gilbert watched from her kitchen Tuesday as smoke and flames shot from Maples’ house and fire equipment filled the street.

“I heard a big boom like something exploded,” she said. “I thought it might have been a stove.”

Fire officials said the one-story house was a total loss.

As Gilbert looked up the street Friday at what’s left of the structure, she wondered how her friend was getting along in the hospital.

“It’s bad,” she said.