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Allan Fields, Witness for the State


MR. PANOSH: Mr. Fields, please.

ALLAN FIELDS, being first duly sworn, testified as follows during DIRECT EXAMINATION by MR. PANOSH:

Q    Would you state your name, please, sir.

A    Allan Fields.

Q    And your occupation, sir?

A    Firefighter.

Q    And where are you assigned?

A    Pleasant Garden Fire Department.

Q    And is that -- that's a paid position?

A    Yes.

Q    In October of 1995, were you a paid firefighter at that time?

A    No. I was a volunteer.


Q    In the course of your duties as a volunteer, on October 9, 1995, did you respond to a house fire on Brandon Station Court?

A    Yes.

Q    Would you tell the jury about that, please.

A    I was living at my dad's house at that time, which is about a mile north on 22. We got the call. I responded to the station, got my turnout gear, got on the first engine out. And when we arrived at the house, by what we had been told on the radio, that it was a house fire, with someone possibly trapped inside.

We pulled in the driveway, pulled off an inch and three-quarter preconnect line, and stretched it out up into the carport, where we were instructed to by the first officer on the scene.

And as we got to the door, we got more information that the house was full of smoke, and that the doors were hot, and someone was possibly trapped inside.

One of the firefighters with us, he checked the door, to make sure it was not locked. It was not. And as soon as we had the hose charged, he opened the door and we proceeded into that door. The heat was so intense that we made it probably two or three feet in the door, and we had to stop, because of the heat. That it felt as if the house had been -- had not been vented and all the heat from the fire was


still in the house.

We called for some ventilation. I had somebody to set up a positive pressure fan behind us and to open up some windows in the house. And it still took a minute or two before the heat was released enough to where we could get inside.

And by the time we made any headway at all, my air bell had went off for my low air, and I had to hand the nozzle over to the next firefighter in line, and I exited the room, went back outside.

Q    Was there anyone at the scene before you were there?

A    Allen Vickrey was there. Reuben Blakley, I believe, was there. And by the time we got up to the door, her father was there.

Q    There were no other firefighters there before you got there?

A    No, not that I know of.

Q    When you were able to make entry, which door did you make entry through?

A    The door in the carport.

Q    And which room did that lead into into the house?

A    The kitchen.

Q    And once you were inside the kitchen, what action did you take?

A    Well, when we first got in, when it was so hot, I


assumed that there -- from the intense heat, that there must have been some fire that I could not see for the smoke, so we did open the nozzle and try to cool the room down, but that didn't seem to help right off, until we got some -- the ventilation efforts were put into effect, to get the heat out.

Q    When you say "open the nozzle," you mean you sprayed down the kitchen area with water -‑

A    Yes.

Q    -- is that right?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    And you indicated about that time, your air pack ran out?

A    Yes. And I had to go out and get a full bottle.

Q    Once you received a full bottle and you came back in, what action did you take in fighting the fire?

A    We -- I came back in on the line, followed the line in to the crew that was inside. And we made our way down the hallway. But by that time, another crew had went through the front room and had extinguished the fire that was in the hallway. And we were -- our efforts then were to search the house, to try to find any victims. We crawled through the hallway, through the hole in the floor, and into the back rooms. The two firefighters with me searched the back left room, and I stayed at the door, while they went around the


bed. And we come out and searched the front room on that end of the house and could not find anything, but -- there was no bodies in there.

Q    Okay. Which bedroom did you search, first of all?

A    Myself, I went into the front bedroom on the far right-hand side, if you're looking from the front of the house.

Q    And were there -- when you went into that first bedroom, were there firefighting efforts needed in there? Did you have to spray water?

A    No. It was solely search at that time.

Q    Did you also go into the other bedrooms?

A    That's the only bedroom I went through, except -- Let me rephrase that. When we -- by the time we were in that rear bedroom, someone did advise us that a body had been found. And when we came out, we were careful not to disturb the area. We went through the front room, I believe it was the center bedroom, that the firefighters had made entry through, that actually got the fire put out. We exited through that window.

MR. PANOSH: May I approach the witness, Your Honor?

THE COURT: You may.

(Mr. Panosh conferred with the bailiff.)

MR. PANOSH: I'm going to need something. That's a roll of paper. If you can tape it up or something.


Counsel, I've shown you these before. Do you want to see them again?

(Mr. Lloyd shook his head from side to side.)

Q    I'm going to show you now what's been marked for identification as State's Exhibit Number 4. Can you identify that, please.

A    That is the house, yes.

Q    Okay. And there's a flag near a door. Which door is that?

A    That's the front door.

Q    And that's -- is this basically a ranch-style house?

A    Yes.

Q    And is that front door kind of in the center of the house or -‑

A    Yes.

Q    -- toward the middle? And I'll show you State's Exhibit Number 5. What is that?

A    That is the carport on the far left side of the house.

Q    Okay. Actually, I believe it's a garage that's not quite finished -‑

A    Okay.

Q    -- is that right?

A    Yes.

Q    Okay. And State's Exhibit Number 6, what is that, please?


A    That is Patricia's car.

Q    Okay. Now, this shows in State's Exhibit Number 6 the front of a vehicle, and what's behind that vehicle?

A    Our fire engine.

Q    Okay. And is that the fire engine that you arrived on?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Okay. And I take it when you arrived, the vehicle that you've identified as Patricia's vehicle was in exactly the same position as it is in that photograph?

A    Yes.

Q    To your knowledge, during the firefighting efforts, was it moved?

A    No.

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor, I seek to introduce into evidence 4, 5 and 6, please.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction-of 4, 5 and 6.

MR. LLOYD: No objection.

Q    Did you in the course of your efforts there examine the vehicle, the Subaru that you've described as Patricia's?

A    No.

Q    Okay. Taking a look at State's Exhibit 7, 7-A and 7-B, is that the vehicle that was parked there when you arrived?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Okay. And you made reference to making entry through a


door; is that correct?

A    Yes.

Q    I'll show you now State's Exhibit Number 8. Do you see that, sir?

A    Yes.

Q    Is that a photograph of part of the kitchen door that you made entry into?

A    Yes.

Q    Okay. And State's Exhibit Number 9 is the jamb. Did you have an opportunity to look at that?

A    Yes. I noticed that on a later entry, after the fire had been knocked down and most of the smoke had been cleared out, that the door facing did look like it had been pried on, and I called it to the attention of one of the deputies there.

Q    Okay. So 8 and 9 are a picture of the door and the door frame; is that right?

A    Yes.

Q    And State's Exhibit 8-A is looking through State's Exhibit 8 into the kitchen; is that correct?

A    Yes.

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor, we'd seek to introduce into evidence State's Exhibits 7, 7-A and 7-B, the vehicle; 8 and 8-A, the door, open and closed; and 9, the doorjamb.
MR. LLOYD: No objection, Your Honor.


THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's 7, 7-A, 7-B, 8, 8-A and 9.

Q    Now, did there come a time when you made entry into the kitchen?

A    Yes.

Q    And showing you State's Exhibit 11, 12 and 13, do they show the kitchen area and part of the dining area?

A    Yes.

Q    And is that basically the way that it appeared, once you got into the home and extinguished the fire?

A    To the best I can tell, yes.

Q    Now, there was no lighting available through the home; is that right? You had to supply auxiliary lighting?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Okay.

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor, we'd seek to introduce State's Exhibits 11, 12 and 13, the photographs of the kitchen area.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the -‑

MR. LLOYD: No objection.

THE COURT: -- introduction of 11, 12 and 13.

Q    Once you were able to enter the residence, did you go into what is referred to as the living room area? (Mr. Panosh showed exhibits to the witness.)

A    At one time, yes.


Q    Okay. And does State's Exhibit 13 and 14 (sic) show the living room area right off the kitchen?

A    Yes.

Q    Okay. Now, there's a lot of pink, fluffy material in those photographs. Do you recognize that?

A    It appears to be attic insulation.

Q    Okay. Other than the attic insulation being there, is this the way it appeared when you entered the residence?

A    Well, as much as you can see through the smoke.

Q    I understand.

A    I mean, it was so smoky at one time, you couldn't tell anything.

Q    But you had a chance to go back later on -‑

A    Yes. Yes.

Q    -- when it was ventilated and there was auxiliary lighting?

A    Yes.

Q    And that's the way it appeared?

A    That's the way it appeared, yes.

Q    Okay.

MR. PANOSH: We'd seek to introduce 13 and 14 of the living room.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's Exhibits 13 and 14.

Q    Now, can –


(Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Panosh conferred.)

MR. PANOSH: I'm sorry, Your Honor. That was 14 and 15.

THE COURT: All right, sir. 14 and 15.

Q    Now, drawing your attention to that pink, fluffy stuff which you described as insulation, can you explain to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury how fighting the fire causes it to be in that -- as is depicted in the


A    As the ceiling materials get wet, they tend to fall apart, and the weight of the insulation pushed causes it to come down.

Q    Okay. And in searching for fires, do you also pull down ceilings?

A Yes, we do. We have to find any hidden fires. If it happened to get into the attic any at all, we have to pull the ceiling to get to it.

Q    Okay. And so, throughout the house, there'll be insulation that came down from the attic?

A    Yes.

Q    And that's a result of the firefighting efforts, and not the fire?

A    Most of the time, yes.

Q    Okay. Well, in this particular house?

A    Yes.


Q    Okay.

A    In the living room especially.

Q    All right. As you entered the residence and started down the hallway, there was a bathroom off to your left. Do you remember that?

A    I remember there being a bathroom, yes.

Q    Okay. Would you look at State's Exhibits 16 and 16-A.

A    That appears to be it.

Q    Okay. And does that show the way it appeared after the fire?

A    Yes.

MR. PANOSH: Seek to introduce 16 and 16-A, Your Honor.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's Exhibits 16 and 16-A.

Q    Now, in the kitchen, there was a gas can. Did you have anything to do with the removal of that?

A    No, sir. I was outside changing -‑

Q    All right.

A    -- my air bottle.

(Mr. Panosh conferred with the bailiff.)

(The bailiff placed an exhibit on the board.)

Q    Drawing your attention then to the hallway area, and State's Exhibits 17, 18 and 19, does that depict the hallway area?


A    Yes, it does.

Q    Okay. And --

MR. PANOSH: We'd seek to introduce 17, 18 and 19, Your Honor, the hallway.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's Exhibits 17 and 18.

Q    Now, would you -- well, in your previous testimony, you said you had to crawl through a hole. What do you mean by that?

A    There was a hole burned in the floor joists in the hallway, that had burned through down into the crawl space underneath the house. When we first got to that area, the firefighter in front of me had actually fallen into the hole and then climbed out the other side. And I proceeded to follow him, to search the rear bedrooms.

Q    Okay. Drawing your attention to State's Exhibit Number 20, this diagram, can you use this to explain the relative location of the various rooms that you referred to?

A    Uh-huh.

MR. PANOSH: We'd seek to introduce Number 20, Your Honor.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's Exhibit Number 20.

Q    Sir, could you step up to the diagram and show the ladies and gentlemen of the jury the door that you


previously referred to, where you made entry.

(The witness approached the diagram.)

A    Yes. We stretched our lines in through the garage area and made entry through this door right here. (Indicated.)

Q And you've previously described a vehicle as Patricia's vehicle as being on the driveway area. Can you show roughly where that is.

A    Right in here. (Indicated.)

Q    That's the driveway. Where was Patricia's vehicle?

A    In the driveway, in front of the garage. (Indicated.)

Q    All right. And as you made entry, you've described the kitchen area. Can you point that out to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

A    Right in here. (Indicated.)

Q    And you've also described the living room area. Can you point that out.

A    It's right here. (Indicated.)

Q    And you've described and identified the bathroom off the hallway?

A    This room here. (Indicated.)

Q And then you indicated that you fell in a hole. Could you show -- or you went through a hole. Could you show the area of the hole.

A    It was right in this area right here. (Indicated.)

Q    And approximately how wide was that?


A    I'm going to say about four foot.

Q    Okay. Or greater?

A    Yes.

Q    And then you indicated that there came a time when you searched a particular bedroom, in an effort to look for anyone that may have been in there. Which bedroom did you search?

A    The bedroom I actually went into was this front bedroom. (Indicated.)

Q    The front bed-- the bedroom to the extreme right, but on the front side of the house?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Thank you.

(The witness returned to the witness stand.)

Q    Did there come a time when a ladder was placed across the hole, in order to make it easier for the firefighters t gain entry to the back portion of the home?

A    I believe that may have been done after we exited the house.

Q    All right. Now, when you entered the bedroom that you've described as the one in the front, to the right of the -- right side of the house, what, if anything, did you notice?

A    There was a tool box and a bed, like a chest type tool box, and then what appeared to be like a desk.


Q    All right.

A    And the drawers were open, papers sticking out of them.

Q    I'll show you now 26, 27 and -- excuse me, 25, 26 and 27. Would you look at those photographs. What do they show, sir?

A    They show a desk with the drawers open, a chest type tool box.

Q    The one you made reference to?

A    Yes.

Q    Okay. Could you use the diagram and show the location

of the tool box when you first saw it?

(The witness approached the diagram.)

A    I believe it was along in this area here somewhere. (Indicated.)

Q    Okay.

A    And then the desk was in close proximity to it. I

believe it was on the front half of the bedroom.


Q    Okay. (The witness returned to the witness stand.)

Q    In the course of your investigation of the area, did

you find it necessary to move that tool box?

A    I didn't, no.

Q    Okay. In the course of investigating the -‑

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor, I'd seek to introduce 25,


26 and 27, please.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's Exhibits 25, 26 and 27.

Q    In the course of investigating this particular room, did you need to do any firefighting efforts in there?

A    No.

Q    Okay. The fact that the drawers are pulled out, does that have anything to do with the firefighting efforts?

A    No.

Q    Did you go through the rest of the house?

A    No.

Q    Okay.

A    At the point when we were in that room is when we were advised that the victim had been found, and we exited through the other bedroom, without disturbing anything else.

Q    Okay. And can you point out where you exited. (The witness approached the diagram.)

A    We came back down the hallway and just hung around this corner here, to step back on the floor, and then went out through the front window. (Indicated.)

Q    Okay.

(The witness returned to the witness stand.)

Q    Now, I'm showing you State's 22, 23 and 24. Do those show the bedroom that you exited from?

A    Appears to be, yes.


Q    Okay. And again, were there firefighting efforts necessary in that particular bedroom?

A    I was not in that room.

Q    That you did?

A    No -- that I did, no.

Q    Okay. And to your knowledge, is the disarray caused by fighting fire -- firefighting efforts? Oh, there is no disarray.

A    There's plenty of things on the ground and the floor, yes. Not that I know of, though.

Q    Okay.

MR. PANOSH: We'd seek to introduce those, 23, 24 -- 22, 23 and 24, please.

THE COURT: The Court will allow the introduction of State's Exhibits 22, 23 and 24.

Q    In the -- after you exited the home, as you've previously described, did you do anything else in the course of fighting the fire there?

A    At that time, the fire was out. We still had fans set up to extinguish all the smoke.

Q    Could you describe or characterize this particular fire?

A    It looked suspicious.

Q    And when you say "it looked suspicious," what do you mean?


A    Well, normally you don't have a hole burnt in the center of a floor. And you normally don't have a gas can in the house.

Q    And as a result of that, this investigation was turned over to the fire marshal's office and the Guilford County Sheriff's Department; is that correct?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Did you participate in that investigation?

A    No, sir.

Q    In the search in any way?

A    No, sir.

MR. PANOSH: Thank you. No further.


Q    Mr. Fields, you indicated to Mr. Panosh that the bedroom on the far right, when you walked in, or at some point when you went in the bedroom, you saw a tool box; is that right?

A    Yes.

Q    All right. And I believe you indicated with your hand where you saw that tool box. If you could, Mr. Fields -‑

MR. LLOYD: If I may approach, Your Honor.

Q    If you could just -- there may be a pencil up there or something. If you could just mark the area that you saw the tool box in, when you first came in.

(The witness approached the diagram.)

 Text Box: •

A    I'm not exactly sure which part of the area it was in. There's not a pencil up here.

Q    Well, just use one of those markers.

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor -‑

(The court reporter handed a pencil to Mr. Lloyd.)

MR. LLOYD: We have a pencil here.

MR. PANOSH: Do you have a pencil?

MR. LLOYD: Yeah.

Q    If you could just circle the area where you think the tool box was.

A    I'm going to say it was right in here. (Complied.) Somewhere -- as we came in the door, I remember seeing it, because I remember I did not go all the way around to this side of the bedroom. (Indicated.)

Q    Okay.

A    So it would have been on this half of the bedroom. (Indicated.)

Q All right. And if you could just put a little initial, TB, for tool box, or whatever you feel is appropriate there. (The witness complied.)

Q    Okay. All right. Thank you, Mr. Fields.

(The witness returned to the witness stand.)

Q    Now, you indicated earlier on direct that when you first got to the house and first went in the door, that the heat was very intense; is that right?


A    Yes.

Q    Was it so hot, Mr. Fields, that you just couldn't stand it after going in the house, I think you said two or three feet?

A    That's correct.

Q    All right. And even though you had your big, heavy at least -‑

A    I had --

Q    -- protective gear on -‑

A    We had hood, helmet, flaps, coat, pants, boots, gloves, air pack.

Q    Now, you indicated that when you came down the hallway, you -- the first fireman who came down the hallway actually fell in the hole in the hallway; is that right?

A    Yes.

Q    All right. And I take it visibility at that time was very poor?

A    Yes. There was still smoke in the house.

Q All right. And the rest -- how many others were there of you firemen behind him that actually crawled through the hole?

A    I'm not certain.

Q    All right. But you certainly did?

A    Yes.

Q    And I believe you indicated earlier in your testimony


there were, you thought two others with you that maybe went in the other bedroom?

A    Yes.

Q    All right. So you all all crawled through the hole and went down?

A    Yes.

Q    You went to the front bedroom and they went to the other bedroom?

A    Yes. I waited for them, while they searched the first bedroom, then I searched the second, along with the other firefighter.

Q    And I believe you indicated on direct examination that you had noticed the pry marks on the carport door, where you came through; is that right?

A    Yes.

Q    And you actually pointed that out to one of the members of the sheriff's department that was investigating -‑

A    Yes, I did.

Q    -- the scene? All right. You know that they had -­had they noticed it before you pointed it out to them?

A    I'm not sure.

Q    All right.

A    But I wanted to make sure they did notice it.

Q    When you got there, Mr. Fields, could you see smoke coming out of the crawl space vents?


A   From where I was, I did not notice smoke coming out of the crawl space. The only smoke I saw, when I first got off the truck, was coming out from the chimney or the -- it was either a chimney or a flue vent out the roof --

Q    All right.

A    -- until I actually got up to the door.

MR. LLOYD: That's all I have, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Step down, sir.

(The witness left the witness stand.)

THE COURT: You may stand and stretch, members of the jury, if you'd like.

MR. PANOSH: Your Honor, may Mr. Fields be excused?

THE COURT: Any objection?

MR. HATFIELD: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: You may be excused, sir.




Published August 15, 2006.  Report broken links or other problems.

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