By Dave Russell


An early Sunday fire severely damaged a Forest Hills home and sent a woman to a hospital in Augusta, Georgia. 

Sue Burton, 81, was home alone when the fire broke out in the living room of the house at 40 Saxony Trail, Jackson County Fire Marshal Michael Forbis said.

The 911 call came in at 12:11 a.m. Sunday, but authorities are not sure when it actually started, he said.

“She was sitting in a chair in the living room when the fire started and did not call 911 directly,” Forbis said. “She called her son-in-law, and said there was a small fire in the floor of the living room. They did not call 911 until after he got there. There was an extended period of time that she was in the house and she received extreme smoke inhalation.”

Burton’s son-in-law, Luis Rojo, made the 911 call.

The Glenville-Cashiers EMS transported Burton to Harris Regional Hospital and from there she was flown to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

“I don’t think she had any burns on her body, but I know she had smoke inhalation,” Forbis said.

The fire was knocked down quickly and fire personnel cleared the scene at 4:42 a.m., he said.

The Cullowhee Fire Department was the main responding agency with mutual aid from Sylva, Balsam and Savannah.

The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental, Forbis said. 

“She had lots of candles in the house and it was either started by a candle or some kind of excessive heating high-resistance connection or a malfunction of an extension cord,” he said. “All of that was present in the area of origin.”

The home was not a total loss.

“It received major damage to the living room and smoke damage throughout the house,” he said.

The home had a tax value of about $193,000, sitting on 1.5 acres.