Ricky Creech, president of Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, died early Saturday morning in a fire at his Lake Waccamaw home.
Crews were dispatched to the fire in the 1000 block of Canal Cove Road at 12:47 a.m. The home is not on the BGHNC campus, which is roughly a mile away.
Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue Chief Brandy Nance said during a 5 a.m. news conference that crews were told en route there might be someone inside the house. Upon arrival, Nance said units saw “heavy smoke and flames were showing from the front of the residence.
“After the flames were extinguished, units and crews were able to go inside and they did find one fatality, that being Mr. Ricky Creech, of Lake Waccamaw, president of the Boys and Girls Home,” Nance announced during the press conference. “Our condolences from Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue and the Town of Lake Waccamaw to the Boys and Girls Home and the family of Ricky Creech.”
Creech was the handler for two assistance dogs who worked at BGHNC and who also died in the fire. Paws4people foundation, a Wilmington-based non-profit, confirmed in a statement that dogs Zara and Kiawah were killed.
“As we process this tragedy, we ask that you please keep our staff, trainers, and volunteers, in your thoughts and prayers, as many people played a part of preparing Zara and Kiawah for their important work,” stated paws4people foundation.
No one else was in the home, which was a total loss, and no neighboring homes were damaged.
“We do not suspect foul play at the time,” Columbus County Deputy Fire Marshal Chase Lancaster said at the press conference, confirming the State Bureau of Investigation is assisting the county fire marshal’s office and Lake Waccamaw Police Department. “The fire is under investigation, we will release more details after the autopsy is completed.”
Lancaster said that Columbus County Fire Marshal Shannon Blackman and Assistant County Manager/Emergency Services Director Nick West were on scene. Lake Waccamaw fire trucks pulled back into their bays around 5 a.m.
An ordained minister with experience leading behavioral health and family service organizations, Creech started at BGHNC in October 2020. He was previously CEO at Southstone Behavioral Health Center in Virginia.
As president of BGHNC, Creech led a realignment at the nonprofit to address federal regulations known as the Families First Act.
“It’s kind of a new day in residential services,” Creech said in November 2020, shortly after starting in his role. “We have to evolve from a group home mentality to one that is clinical.”
The Families First Act requires residential programs to provide trauma-informed, evidence-based and outcome-driven therapy to receive financial assistance for the children.
BGHNC announced Saturday afternoon that its board of trustees executive committee had named Chief Mission Officer Ray Cockrell as temporary acting president/CEO.
“President Creech’s fearless leadership and passion for the youth and families in our care will be sorely missed,” said Board Chair Dave Wyatt. “We keep his family in our prayers. We know that the children served by BGHNC were his priority and he would want the work to continue. We believe Ray is the right choice for the mission at this time.”
Cockrell joined the development team at BGHNC in April 2005 with a focus on planned giving and major gifts, according to a BGHNC news release. He is a certified financial planner and holds both a bachelor and master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In addition to his work, Cockrell is active in Scouting and serves as a leader for the scouts in Troop 26 in Wilmington. Cockrell is the president of the Wilmington Optimist Club, incoming governor of the North Carolina East Optimist, and is an active member of his church.