A 20-year-old mother and her two-year-old daughter died and a young man suffered second degree burns in a duplex house fire Wednesday morning in Southwest Memphis near Coro Lake. Three dogs also died in the fire. Firefighters were able to rescue two other men.
The victims have been identified as McKala Kelley, 20, and Elizabeth Kelley, age 2. Their cause of death are being investigated by the Shelby County Medical Examiner.
The fire was reported at around 10 a.m. in the 1300 block of Rosecrest Road. It took almost an hour for firefighters to get the duplex fire under control.
When firefighters were able to gain access to the structure, they found the bodies of the woman and child in a back bedroom. A 19-year-old was taken to the burn unit at Regional One in critical condition and is being treated for second degree burns to his face and hands.
Neighbors who are still in shock told FOX13 News the duplex was fully engulfed in flames quickly after the fire started. But it would take hours before they realized the fire had consumed much more than just wood.
Within minutes of arriving on the scene in the Coro Lake area just after 10 a.m., firefighters knew they were helpless to defuse a raging inferno of burning wood, heavy smoke and intense heat.
“It was a heavy fire,” said Memphis Fire spokesman Lt. Wayne Cooke. “A lot of material in the structure and it had been burning for some time before we received the call.”
Even before five units of firefighters arrived, neighbors surrounding the duplex sensed a family tragedy was in the making.
“I heard screaming in the front yard, and then screaming in the backyard,” said Robert Keller, Coro Lake neighbor. “I was running from back to front trying to figure out where’s the screaming coming from? It took a while. I had to see the smoke before I knew what happened.”
“I just heard the wood popping, sparks going everywhere, and the fire coming out of everywhere, and some guy run and he was smoking,” Brenda McDay, Coro Lake neighbor.
But, it was after firefighters got the fierce blaze under control, the grim realization their job was only beginning started to sadly settle in.
“An adult male 19-year old was transported in critical condition for burns to his face and his hand,” Lt. Cooke said. “Two victims, during our primary search procedure, were located in a bedroom area. They were pronounced deceased on the scene.”
Firefighters managed to rescue two men, one who escaped without injury. But, the rescue then gave way to the grief of recovery, in this case a young woman and child. Pending an investigation, firefighters would not say whether the pair died from burns or from smoke inhalation.
“It’s always devastating to hear of family members who are injured,” Lt. Cooke said.
Coro Lake neighbors are not sure who lived in the duplex that caught fire or how long they lived there.
After the investigation, Lt. Cooke said the duplex did not have a working smoke detector and the origin of the fire was accidental. Fire investigators found faulty electrical wiring in the attic.