Girls, 6 and 7, Heard Screaming in Agony As They Die in a House Fire Alongside Their Great-grandmoth
A house fire killed two young children and their great-grandmotherearly Friday in Louisiana's capital.Maylia Jackson, seven, and Michele Williams, six, died in the blaze alongside the matriarch of their family 77-year-oldGloria Anderson.A neighbor said he heard children screaming for help from the burning home in Baton Rouge and watched in horror as a young woman ran from the house with her clothes on fire.Firefighters later found the three bodies inside the house after the flames were extinguished.Anderson was the matriarch of the family and had helped to raise many generations including her ownchildren, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren in the three-bedroom house.Another relative said she had lived there since 1974 and was a retired housekeeper.A 19-year-old woman and a five-year-old boy were taken to a hospital and were in 'very critical' condition after the pre-dawn fire, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Curt Monte said.Officials didn't immediately determine the cause of the fire but were investigating whether heating equipment may have ignited it.'It certainly could be weather-related. They have no reason to suspect foul play at this point in time,' Monte said.'It's just heartbreaking; family members are coming on scene and firefighters are heartbroken.'It's unprecedented what we've seen since the first of the year. It's a time this community needs to come together. We need prayers for this family. I believe we need prayers for our community. We need prayers for our firefighters. It's just part of the job you just hate to face.'Reginald Howard, 54, who lives across the street from the charred home, said his dogs' barking awoke him before dawn.When he looked outside, he saw the young woman running out the front door in her burning clothes and collapsing onto a neighbor's porch. Neighbors put out the fire on her, he said.Howard approached the home and heard children screaming inside, he recalled.Howard, another neighbor and a police officer pried open a metal door at the rear of the home, but the smoke and flames were too intense for them to enter.'To hear those kids hollering, and you can't get to them - that really hurts,' he said.Norma Wright, who said she has lived across the street for 50 years, said she was awoken early, because her dogs were barking.'So, we got up and looked, looked out the front and nothing but fire,' she said to The Advocate.Wright said she saw the teenager running out of the house, clothes on fire. She said another neighbor wrapped her in a blanket and put out the flames.Douglas Johnson, who also lives across the street looked out his window and saw the house was already on fire.He called 911 and then rushed across the road to see if he could help.'I heard (the teenager) say, 'The babies are in the house! The babies are in the house!'' Johnson said. 'My mind zeroed in on that.'Johnson said the front door was blocked by flames but when he went around the back, the door as well as the windows were covered by burglar bars.'It was devastating to me, because I didn't want to give up, because I felt like they were still in there,' Johnson said.Elaine Williams, a grandmother of three children who lived in the home, bent over and sobbed as she watched investigators from behind police tape.She believed two of her grandchildren died inside the house and the third was flown to a hospital.'They were good kids,' she said. 'They brought home good grades. They came from two good parents.'Louisiana is in the midst of a recent surge in fire-related deaths - some of which are likely due to the recent spate of cold weather.The state fire marshal's office said in a statement Thursday that investigators believe four recent deaths may have been caused by the use of space heaters.In East Baton Rouge Parish alone, nine people have now died in four separate fires since Tuesday, according to Monte.'It's the most any of us have ever seen this close together,' Monte said.