A space heater ignited a fire early Monday morning in Macon that killed two children and seriously injured another child.
Firefighters pulled 12-year-old Zanesia Hollis and 7-year-old Ricardo Barron Jr. from the living room of their burning home at 1075 Carlisle Ave. at about 2 a.m., Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said.
Zanesia later was pronounced dead at The Medical Center of Central Georgia, said Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones.
Ricardo was airlifted to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, where he was listed in critical condition Monday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
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Mekala Barron, 4, wasn’t discovered in time for firefighters to attempt to save her life. Her body was found near a window in a bedroom, Riggins said.
“It was too late,” he said.
A smoke detector has not been recovered from the debris, said Capt. Tom Musselwhite.
It’s still unknown who was in the house at the time of the fire, Riggins said. Jones said the children’s parents, Ricardo and Jessica Barron, were not injured.
All signs point to an accident, Riggins said.
Gregory Chatman, Jessica Barron’s uncle, said his niece called him soon after the fire started.
“She was frantic,” he said.
Chatman said Mekala was found in her parents’ bedroom.
Gwendolyn C. Willis, the children’s great-aunt, likened the fire to a nightmare.
“It’s still a shock,” she said, standing beside the house Monday afternoon with other family members as fire investigators combed through debris.
Tears rolled down the young face of the children’s cousin, James Smith, as he held a sheet of what appeared to be Zanesia’s school portraits that firefighters recovered along with a wet photo album.
Zanesia was a seventh-grader at Weaver Middle School, where school officials described her as happy and always smiling.
Monday morning, her classmates wrote the family letters and talked about Zanesia’s “All About Me” poster she made for English class.
She wanted to be a hairdresser or a nurse, and she loved her family, Weaver principal Pam Carswell said.
“She was funny, had a lot of wit,” Carswell added. “(Teachers) remembered laughing and talking to her as she boarded the bus on Friday.”
Steve Corkery, the school system’s lead psychologist, said crisis teams were at Weaver before school started Monday. They also were sent to Hartley Elementary, where Mekala attended as a pre-kindergarten student.
The school’s principal had to tell her teachers the news, he said.
School workers also offered prayers at Riley Elementary for Ricardo, a second-grade student.
“It’s a shock,” Corkery said. “Anything like this with a natural disaster is harder to handle. It’s someone (students) saw Friday, and after the weekend is not here.”
Autopsy results revealed Mekala died of smoke inhalation while Zanesia died of smoke and soot inhalation, Jones said.
The children’s mother, who was not hurt in the blaze, told the fire department she’d been asking her landlord to install a smoke detector. The fire department offers free smoke detectors and free installation, Riggins said. For more information, call 751-2700.
“They really do save lives,” he said.
Riggins said he also urges families to have a plan for how they will escape from their home in the event of a fire or another catastrophe.
“You’ve got to practice it so everybody knows it,” he said.
Musselwhite said people using space heaters should ensure the heater isn’t near anything that can easily burn.
“We recommend three feet at least,” he said.
He said users should check the cord to be sure it’s not getting hot.
Zanesia and Mekala are the second and third children killed in fires in Bibb County this year.
Clothes near a space heater started a fire that killed 2-year-old Amir Scott on April 8 in a blaze at 611 Pringle St.
Staff writers Julie Hubbard and Liz Fabian contributed to this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.