Photo by Donna Drilling

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By Connie Leinbach

Noah Turner’s instincts saved him and his house Friday from total destruction when he smelled smoke and acted quickly.

The Ocracoke School fifth-grader was alone on Friday afternoon around 2 p.m. when he heard a beeping upstairs in the Central Drive home he shares with parents Janille and George Turner.

He went to the second-floor bedroom and cracked the door.

“I saw flames,” the youngster said Saturday afternoon while the family was settling into a temporary home on Sunset Drive.

Then he called his “Papa” George at the Ocracoke Oyster Company, which the couple owns.

“’The house is on fire!’ Noah said,” George explained as the couple spoke to well-wishers Saturday afternoon on the Variety Store porch.

“I said, ‘What?!”

“’The house is on fire!’ Noah yelled,” George said.

George and Janille Turner talk with well-wishers on the Variety Store porch on Saturday. Photo: C. Leinbach

Noah closed the door and ran out of the house, George said, who immediately left the Oyster Company kitchen and went home.

That instinct—to close the door—contained the fire inside the structure, said  Albert O’Neal, the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Company (OVFD) chief who was among those on the porch.

Because of that action, which prevented the fire from flashing out, the 16 volunteers who responded sprayed their hoses only on the inside of the house, O’Neal said.  Nonetheless, the entire inside is damaged to the studs because of the water and smoke, Janille said, and will have to be gutted and rebuilt.

“If Noah hadn’t been home the entire house would have burned down,” she said.

Then, after he called George, Noah got a ladder and took it inside to cut down his Elf on the Shelf that was hanging from the family room ceiling fan, Janille said.

Noah Turner’s Elf on the Shelf that he saved but was lost in the fire, though, unbeknownst to Noah, will return, thanks to generous islanders. Photo by Janille Turner

But the toy, named Eggnog, “died in the fire,” Janille said. (However, thanks to generous islanders, and unbeknownst to Noah, his elf will return before Christmas.)  

In the emergency, the boy also lost his glasses, which a firefighter later found.

“Bless his heart,” Janille continued. “I told him he was so brave. He was so nervous and about to cry but he told himself to keep it together and call Papa.”

O’Neal said the company responded with two pumpers and a brush truck and contained the fire in about 30 minutes.

The Dare County fire marshal arrived early Saturday evening to tour the home and determine the cause.

The Ocracoke community instantly rallied to the Turners’ aid.

Ocracoke Island Realty found the house where the family is staying, Janille said.

“Tommy (Hutcherson, the Variety Store proprietor) had a Christmas tree up by the time we got there,” she said. “Somebody else brought (Christmas) stockings.”

Other islanders responded with ornaments and other items.

“I want to get every decoration that everyone gave on the tree,” Janille said.

She said they were allowed to enter after O’Neal’s OK and retrieve food and some clothing that was in the washer and dryer.

“I got my honey-baked ham,” George said.

“We are beyond words with all the help, messages and texts we have been getting from everyone,” Janille posted on Facebook, thanking the OVFD and Ocracoke Island Realty. “I am still in shock and a fog and can’t wrap my head around it. I am so thankful to God he (Noah) did not have his headphones on, heard the (beeping) and went to get a drink and left his bedroom.”

George and Janille Turner, on right, talk to islanders on the Variety Store porch on Saturday. From left, Albert O’Neal, Rev. Richard Bryant, Sandy Yeatts and Sherry Atkinson. Photo: C. Leinbach
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  1. What an amazing community!!! I wish every town was like yours.
    Merry Christmas to everyone on Ocracoke Island. Cant wait to visit this coming May!

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