Kentucky firefighters
Arza Barnett  /  AP file
Firefighters roll up a blue tarp in front of a home fire that killed 10 people, six of them children, in Bardstown, Ky., on Feb. 6.
updated 2/10/2007 4:45:10 PM ET 2007-02-10T21:45:10

Residents of this small Kentucky town are grieving over the deaths of 10 family members — including six children — in an early morning house fire.

Officials on Friday were still investigating the cause of the blaze — Kentucky’s deadliest in 30 years. Investigators have finished shoveling charred remnants of walls, ceiling and furniture and turned over their findings to the state fire marshal.

The fire has deeply affected many in this close-knit community of 10,300 people, known for its historic homes and bourbon distilleries, and for some residents it has rekindled memories of the loss of five of the town’s National Guardsmen during a firefight in Vietnam in June 1969.

“This fire was certainly worse than that,” Mayor Richard Heaton said. “We’ve never had a loss of human life like this before.”

Some residents were left wondering how to cope.

“How do you deal with that?” asked LeAnn Baber, whose two young children played with some of the victims.

The dead include Sherry Lynn Maddox, 47, who rented the single-story brick home, and her longtime boyfriend, 52-year-old Johnny Lewis Litsey; Crystal Maddox, 30; her 1-year-old daughter, Ann-Ashia Maddox, and 3-year-old son, Dariyel Cyleigh Maddox; Demita Jo “Ann” Maddox Wise, 26, and her 2-year-old twins, Heaven and Earth Maddox; and Deasha Danielle McKinney, 10, and Nakiya Genae McKinney, 8, who were cousins to the Maddox family.

One person survived the blaze and was hospitalized with burns.

About 300 people attended a Wednesday memorial service, and even residents who didn’t know the victims are looking for ways to help offset what is expected to be a large funeral bill. Businesses across the town have placed cans and jars on countertops seeking donations. The city and firefighters also are soliciting funds to help.

Image: Saretha Litsey
Patti Longmire  /  AP
Saretha Litsey, right, cries during a vigil for the 10 people were were killed in a Tuesday house fire, at First Baptist Church in Bardstown, Ky., on Wednesday.
Dwight Mason, a neighbor who called 911, said the memory of the fire and his attempts to help those trapped inside the house will stay with him.

“It’s just so bad,” he said. “You could hear them hooting and hollering.”

Fire Chief Anthony Mattingly, a 28-year veteran of the department, said discovering the children’s bodies has proven to be a more daunting challenge for volunteer firefighters than battling the actual blaze.

“This is the worst I’ve ever been through,” Mattingly said. “Kids, when kids are involved, it always makes it tougher.”

Stephanie Walls, the niece of Sherry Maddox, said family members are slowly coming to grips with what happened. Walls, who has attended various news conferences about the fire, said the deaths are taking a physical and emotional toll, but the support of area residents has helped.

“This is just so much to swallow,” Walls said. “We’ve got a whole lot of rough days ahead of us. This is just the beginning.”

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