FORT MILL — Kenneth “Kiss” Sloan grew tomatoes and cherries in his yard. He went fishing and cared for his ailing wife.
“He’d do anything in the world for you,” said Opal Pittman, Sloan’s neighbor for the last 50 years. “Anything he could do in the world for you, he’d do it.”
At about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sloan, 84, died after first getting his wife out of their burning home.
Officials say the fire was the result of an electrical shortage in his wife’s lift chair. Neighbors say Sloan got her out of the house before he went back inside.
Crews suspect he tried to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher.
Fort Mill, Flint Hill and Pleasant Valley firefighters responded to the Sloans’ Williams Road home, where Pittman said he lived with his wife, Avie, for more than 50 years.
Firefighters found Kenneth Sloan in a hallway. It appears he succumbed to the smoke, said Charles Williamson, an investigator with the York County Fire Marshal’s Office.
After taking him out of the house, crews performed CPR before they handed him over to paramedics with Piedmont Medical Center, said Fort Mill Fire Chief Jeff Hooper.
Kenneth Sloan was pronounced dead on the scene, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. A cause of death was unavailable pending an autopsy Thursday afternoon.
The fire has been ruled an accident, Williamson said. Officials believe the flames started when a wire from Avie Sloan’s electric lift chair in the living room shorted out. The chair’s upholstery burned and the flames spread into the kitchen.
Firefighters used about 1,500 gallons of water to knock out the fire, Hooper said.
Authorities estimate the damage to the house to be $50,000, Williamson said. The exterior is intact.
“You can’t tell from the outside that it burned,” he said.
“The whole house wasn’t on fire,” said Pittman, who lives across the street from the couple. “There was just so much commotion down here. It was a disaster for awhile.”
When the fire first broke out, Pittman’s son heard Avie Sloan’s cries for help. After calling 911, he got out of his truck and went to the house. It was dark inside. He tried finding the light switch but was overwhelmed by the heat.
“Fire was shooting up everywhere on the floor; soot was getting in his eyes,” Pittman said of her son. “He said he wished he could have gotten there sooner. He wishes he could have known where the light switch was at.”
Pittman and her son watched as firefighters battled the flames and pulled Sloan out of the house.
By Thursday morning, Avie Sloan was still in the hospital, said Pittman, adding that she was unsure if her neighbor would return to live in the house, which fire officials said suffered heavy smoke damage.
“They were real nice neighbors,” Pittman said. “You couldn’t ask for better neighbors; I’ve known them for years.”
For years, the Sloans had been members of St. John’s United Methodist Church, said the Rev. Carl Hunsucker, the church’s pastor.
Hunsucker described Kenneth Sloan as a “character” who always had a funny story or “some type of tidbit or joke.”
He was “easy to deal with,” Hunsucker said.
In addition to caring for his wife, Kenneth Sloan fished and maintained a garden on the side of his house. In years past, he would invite Pittman’s late husband to come over with a bucket so he could gather freshly grown tomatoes. Sloan also grew a cherry tree, Pittman said, and often picked cherries so he could make pies for his wife.
“He saw that she was taken care of,” Pittman said.
On Wednesday, it was pretty much the same.
“He got his wife out,” Pittman said. “That’s just like ‘Kiss’ Sloan.”