Deadly fires plague Birmingham area

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) —  Breaking tonight, a pair of houses caught fire in the Avondale area. When our crews arrived in the 4300 block of 2nd Avenue South, one home was completely engulfed in flames and the fire had started to spread to a second home. The good news is fire crews got the flames knocked down fast and no one was home at the time of the fire.

However it’s not uncommon for the city of Birmingham to respond to fires like this, this time of year. And that’s the problem. Eighty four people have been killed state wide from fires this year. At least fourteen of them happened right here in our viewing area. Investigators say it was a space heater plugged into a power strip that caused the first home of the year to go up in flames. Neighbors tell WIAT 42 that night was terrifying.

“Out of nowhere we hear screaming, come outside and the whole house is in flames,” claims Dione Gunn.

Gunn says she will never forget January 10th. The powerlessness she and everyone on the street felt as they listened to their neighbors screams as they were trapped inside their burning home.

“It was terrifying for everybody because we knew he was handicapped and he couldn’t get out the house,” says Gunn. “And we weren’t sure where the son was and we knew the wife barely made it out. So it was horrifying because everybody know we were watching the house burn with our neighbors inside.

When the flames were out, Birmingham fire fighters discovered the bodies of William Nunn and Terrick Haynes. In the next four months, seven more people in the city of Birmingham would die in fires. Such as 74 year old Milton Bray Junior. He was killed in his Delta Street home in a space heater fire. Or a 32 year old homeless man. Investigators say he died in a fire that was started for heat at the old Adams Inn.

Birmingham Fire Battalion Chief Cordell Mardis says these deaths are unfortunate.

“Anytime you have anyone injured, let alone someone dead, it’s quite disheartening,” claims Mardis. “Because we look at most of these injuries and fatalities as they could have been avoided.”

Just outside the city, in our viewing area, at least five other people died in house fires this year. On January 8th, an eleven year old girl was trapped inside a burning mobile home in Leeds. It’s believed a space heater or stove was being used for heat.

Our death toll state wide last year was 81 people. The Fire Marshall tells WIAT 42 after the death yesterday of an elderly man, our number this year may soon be up to 85 people and we still have about three weeks left in the year.

As for tonight’s fire in Avondale, we spoke with the homeowner and she says she did not have a space heater or Christmas lights plugged in. The fire is still under investigation.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 news

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