As Brunswick firefighters battled the flames at 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. before noon Tuesday, neighbors gathered nearby to show concern for the man who called the modest structure home.
"Oh, no! He's not in there, is he?" one frantic woman asked, standing on the sidewalk nearby as smoke continued to billow from the home.
No, James Demere was in Atlanta when the fire severely damaged his home, other bystanders were able to assure the woman.
"Thank God! Praise the Lord," she said.
Demere had recently suffered a stroke and is staying with relatives in Atlanta while undergoing physical rehabilitation, said his brother, Benny Demere. His next door neighbor, Dennis West, received a shock late Tuesday morning when he stepped onto his front porch.
"When I opened the door, there was fire coming out of the front of his house," West said. The Brunswick Fire Department received West's 911 call at 11:42 a.m. and were on the scene by 11:45 a.m.
"Fire was coming out of the front and back when we got here," said Brunswick Fire Chief Randy Mobley.
Firefighters had the flames under control in about five to 10 minutes, Deputy Chief Richie May said. Still, he estimated damage to the 960-square-foot wood frame home at 50 percent. A blue tarp was draped across a portion of the 70-year-old home's roof, leak protection from earlier damage inflicted last September during Hurricane Irma.
Firefighters have not yet determined the cause of the Tuesday's fire.
Louis Scriven was just relived to learn that his longtime friend and neighbor was safe.
"I saw the smoke, I was concerned about him being in there," Scriven said of Demere. "But he went to Atlanta, and I'm glad. I was worried about him."