Video: Fighting fires in cold weather

updated 2/6/2007 2:54:27 PM ET 2007-02-06T19:54:27

House fires in Kentucky and Tennessee on Tuesday killed 14 people, 10 of them children, officials said.

Fast-moving flames trapped a dozen people inside a burning house early Tuesday in Bardstown, killing 10 — six of them children — and leaving the only survivors hospitalized, authorities said.

In the Tennessee foothills, fire swept a two-story house in a wooded hollow, killing four children. The blaze broke out before dawn in rural Maryville, near Friendsville, not far from Knoxville's airport, where the temperature was recorded at 22 degrees.

Most of the Kentucky victims were dead by the time firefighters reached them, Nelson County Coroner Field Houghlin said. Neighbors said the two survivors had to be held from running back into the flames for the screaming children.

“It may have been an explosion in the center of the house. The fire flashed very quickly,” said Bardstown Fire Department spokesman Tom Isaac.

Two of the children were found dead under the bodies of adults inside the charred one-story brick home, said Emergency Medical Services director Joe Prewitt.

The relationships and ages of the 12 people in the house and the conditions of the survivors were not officially released, but neighbors and relatives who gathered at the home described them as an extended family.

Janet Tonge said her 40-year-old sister, Sherry Maddox, died in the fire. Maddox’s boyfriend, Johnny Litsey, a 2-year-old boy, girl twins, an 11-year-old child and a 1-year-old child were also in the house, she said.

“How do you prepare for a funeral this large? How do you do it?” Tonge asked. “We’re not capable of thinking right now. We’re like that house — burned out.”

The blaze broke out shortly before 4 a.m. in the home in Bardstown, about 40 miles southeast of Louisville. Fire officials were still trying to pin down the cause.

Fire Chief Anthony Mattingly said the fire spread too rapidly for firefighters to get inside.

“It just didn’t make any difference how fast we were here for the victims that were found,” he said.

There was no way’
Neighbor Bennie Stone, 61, said he saw someone on the front lawn screaming for help, then went to the rear of the house and saw a woman who had escaped trying to get back inside. Stone said he pulled her back, then broke some windows to try to get to the children inside but was driven back by smoke and flames.

“I heard some of the kids hollering. There was just flames everywhere. There was no way, no way, I just couldn’t do it,” Stone said.

Stone said he believed all the people in the house were related, but some were staying there temporarily because their furnace went out.

Another neighbor, Dwight Mason, 48, said one of the survivors was Darrell Maddox, who was listed in serious condition at University of Louisville Hospital on Tuesday morning.

Temperatures in Bardstown dropped to 11 degrees Monday night and hovered in the teens early Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The ground around the home was icy Tuesday morning from water used to battle the blaze. A large portion of the roof had collapsed into the center of the building.

Deadly Tennessee blaze
In Tennessee, Blount County Sheriff James Berrong said the fire appears to have begun in an upstairs bedroom. Berrong calls it "an accident and a tragedy."

While officials haven't released names of the victims, a fund for three survivors has been set up with donations being requested for the family.

A man, a woman and a 3-year-old boy who all slept on the ground floor were able to escape. Two girls ages 7 and 14, and two boys, ages 10 and 12, perished on the second floor.

Authorities said the man had just been released from a hospital where he was treated for pneumonia. He was readmitted after the fire.

Pam Pointon reported the fire to 911. She lives across the street and said she got up to go to work and noticed her front window had a "big red glow to it."

Pointon said she went to work at a high school cafeteria, but she cried all morning.

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