A briefcase, owned by a man living out of his car, was the only item to make it out of a vehicle fire on I-40 near Marion.

At approximately 3:07 p.m. Friday afternoon, fire and emergency units responded to I-40 eastbound near the 79 mile marker after receiving reports of a vehicle fire in progress.

Upon arrival, units found the 2015 Ford Escape – driven by James Joseph Timmons II of Pittsboro – involved in a working fire, which rendered the vehicle destroyed.

According to Old Fort Fire Chief Ron Richardson, the fire was deemed electrical in nature.

Timmons, 63, said he had been living in the vehicle since being evicted from his residence in Charlotte and was traveling to Hickory to add his belongings in storage space.

“I’ve been dealing with this since March 1, 2018; this (the fire) is the culmination of it,” said Timmons.

During his travel on the interstate, Timmons said he was traveling down the hill through Old Fort heading toward Marion when the Ford began losing power.

“I looked on the dashboard and it was flashing and said there was a voltage overload; it went completely blank then came back on briefly, and then it started smoking and caught on fire. It was burnt badly.”

Timmons, who claimed he was currently suffering from Stage 5 cancer, was treated for possible smoke inhalation but remained on scene.

While most of the vehicle and its belongings had been scorched, one item – a red Samsonite suitcase, ashy and slightly melted – was recovered.

“I’ve had that since I was 13 years old,” said Timmons. “It’s got all my paperwork in it, [and] it survived.”

In regards to his next action after the fire took place, Timmons said a passerby who stopped on the highway would continue to drive him to Hickory with his remaining belongings and, from there, he would travel to Tampa, Fla. to pursue cancer treatment.

Old Fort and Marion Fire Departments, McDowell EMS and the NC State Highway Patrol responded to the incident.

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