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CARROLLTON, KY (WDRB) -- Smoke still smolders from the scene of last week's deadly fire that claimed the life of a Carroll County mother, 37-year old Wendy Mercer. What didn't burn up is now being burned off as volunteers have pitched in to help clean up the charred wreckage of two manufactured homes that were destroyed.
A faulty space heater is likely to blame for the fire Dec. 2 that quickly spread to two trailers - one containing Ray Smith, his wife and daughter; the other contained Ray's grandson, William Kelley, his fiance Wendy Mercer, and their four-month old child.
Relatives say Wendy Mercer turned back to retrieve items for the child but couldn't escape and died in the blaze.
"It's been like a nightmare. That's all it was - like a nightmare to me," said Ray Smith, who escaped the fire. His grandson, William Kelley, was engaged to Mercer. "When they found her she was right back there against the door. Like she was sitting down."
Ray Smith didn't have insurance. He nearly lost it all. His trailer. His life. His family. He said his grandson William Kelley called for Mercer and even searched a nearby farm in disbelief that his fiance had died in the fire.
It was during that frantic time that Ray -- after being awakened by his grandson -- managed to drag his disabled wife from the burning home.
"It's sad with what happened (with Wendy). But I'm glad with that instinct kicked in and Ray was able to bring his wife out with him," said Carroll County Sheriff Jamie Kinman,
Kinman's office is now collecting items to help get the family members back on their feet. Donations can be dropped off at the Carroll County Sheriff's Office in downtown Carrollton or at the Crisis Center on Highland Ave. in Carrollton. More information can be found on the sheriff's department's Facebook page. (Simply search Carroll County Sheriff's Office Ky. in the facebook search field).
"Right here at the holiday season, it's been hard on everybody. Everybody is getting together and helping out. We'll get through it," said Kinman, who said his office is trying to help a second family secure donations following a fire on Friday.
The word hero has been thrown around for Ray Smith. It's a title he doesn't run from, but embraces.
When asked if his actions that day were heroic, Ray replied: "Yep. Saved my wife. I lived with her 60 some years."
With the loss of his home, Ray may be forced to sell of his chickens because his daughter's home on a nearby hill is too far away for Ray to probably feed and tend to the chickens each day.
It's another blow to a family still trying to heal.
"Life's got to go on so," said Smith.
Smith says his grandson William Kelley is really struggling with the loss of his fiance.
Kelley was arrested a day after the fire for a probation violation for failing a drug test - an issue unrelated to the fire, authorities said.