2 girls in Jackson become latest of 9 killed in local house fires
JACKSON, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Twelve-year-old Annabella and 7-year-old Azriel Burress had their whole lives ahead of them, their family said.
But those lives were cut short when the sisters dead Sunday in a house fire.
Outside the Burress house, you can see some of the damage from the flames, and debris is still on the ground.
Including stuffed animals Azriel and Annabella will never play with again.
Their grandma says Bella considered her little sister Azzie her baby from day one.
Bella had Angelman syndrome and was nonverbal. Her family says she was full of love and if they got close, she would grab them for a hug.
The family says Azzie’s beautiful head of curls was filled with an active imagination and loved to have fun.
The Aiken County School District says prayers are with the family and the girls’ schools during this time of grief.
Annabella was a seventh-grader at Paul Knox Middle School and Azriel was a first-grader at Redcliffe Elementary School.
“Our prayers and continued comfort are with the Burress family and the Paul Knox Middle and Redcliffe Elementary families during this time of grief,” the Aiken County Public School District said in a statement.
Counselors will be on campus at both schools Tuesday to support teachers, students and families.
Officials say there were nine children and two adults inside the home at the time of the fire. One of the children is in a hospital recovering from burns.
Their father was a volunteer firefighter with the Jackson Fire Department.
The family says they’re holding it together as best they can but are asking for prayers.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
A deadly time of year
The deaths come on the heels of seven local fire deaths in December, including that of a child who died not far from where the Jackson girls died.
This is one of the deadliest times of year for house fires, with many started as people try to keep warm in the winter.
In December across the CSRA:
- One person died in a Dec. 27 fire at 123 Weaver St. in Aiken County. After the fire was extinguished, a body was found inside, and the coroner was called to the scene.
- A 63-year-old man whose name hasn’t been released died in a Christmas Eve fire at a mobile home in Columbia County. The fire was caused by an overloaded power strip, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King said .
- Traci Smith, 10, died Dec. 15 in a house fire at 26 Independent Blvd. between New Ellenton and Beech Island in Aiken County.
- Sergio T. Villalobos, 29, died Dec. 10 in a camper fire at 526 Water Oak Drive in Windsor.
- Eugenia Gosdin, 82, died after suffering severe burns over 80 percent of her body Dec. 8 in Augusta. She was cooking at her home in the 1800 block of Telfair Street when the fire jumped onto her clothes.
- Two elderly sisters died in a fire Dec. 3 at 110 White Ash St. in Warrenville. Leila Ann Gantt, 72, and her sister Alice Gantt, 68, were trapped inside and died of smoke and soot inhalation and thermal injuries.
The fire deaths have raised concerns across the CSRA, with local rescuers offering tips on how to stay safe, since this is peak fire season.
“The No. 1 thing people can do right now is test and make sure they have a working smoke alarm inside their home,” said Augusta Fire Chief/EMA Director Antonio Burden. “There should be an alarm installed in every room where you have a loved one.”
Other safety steps people can take:
- Make an escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
- If you’re cooking, never leave food unattended.
- Know how to put out a grease fire if one flares up. A grease fire could be extinguished by sliding a cover over the pot or pan, turning off the heat source, and move the pot or pan away from the heat source with a protective glove.
- Consider purchasing an ABC fire extinguisher.
- Do not overload your power outlets. If you use a power strip, make sure there’s a UL-tested label on it. And do not plug heating equipment into extension cords. This can lead to overheating of the cord, damage to the appliance and increased risk of fire or electric shock.
- Have your fireplace or wood stove chimney and chimney connectors inspected and cleaned at the start of the heating season.
- Move anything that can burn (i.e., furniture, bedding, clothing) at least three feet from your heater, fireplace, or wood stove. Fifty-four percent of home heating fire deaths are caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn.
- Keep your children and pets safely away from your portable or space heater.
- Turn off your portable or space heater before leaving the room.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
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