As she was reporting her neighbor’s house fire to 911 early Wednesday, Deborah Schaeffer watched from her front yard as several people fled the burning east Charlotte home.
Schaeffer guided two badly burned children into her own home, she later told reporters.
Another woman appeared from around back of the burning house, holding a baby and shouting “bambino,” Schaeffer recalled. Schaeffer said she yelled to the firefighters that more children were inside.
“I was scared they weren’t going to make it,” she said.
In the aftermath of the blaze an 8-year-old boy died, and four more children were critically injured along with two adults, according to Medic and a police report. Three other people in the house escaped harm, authorities said.
The fire in the 1900 block of Academy Street was caused by an unattended candle or candles, the Charlotte Fire Department said in a tweet, and it caused an estimated $120,000 in damages. The house’s blackened walls were visible from the street Wednesday.
The victim’s name has not been released.
Neighbor Lisa Grimes said she saw the flames from her bedroom window and heard the woman with the baby screaming.
Grimes said she grabbed something from her house to drape across the woman and child.
Firefighters were called to the home shortly before 1 a.m., according to fire and police officials. The house is off East Sugar Creek Road, near Eastway Drive.
More than 30 firefighters responded and the fire was brought under control in 30 minutes, according to a CFD tweet.
Ten people were in the home when the fire started, according to a CFD tweet. Several people were able to make it out of the burning house by themselves while others needed to be rescued, fire department Capt. Jackie Gilmore said.
The people who were not injured are staying with other family members, fire department officials tweeted.
The six injured people were sent to Carolinas Medical Center, while the 8-year-old was pronounced dead at Novant Health Presbyterian, according to CMPD and Medic.
Matt Westover, CFD battalion chief of public information, said the department cannot confirm whether all of the children lived in the house.
Between 2014 and 2016, more than 300 people in North Carolina died in fires or from smoke exposure, according to the most recent state records available. Eight of those deaths were in Mecklenburg County.
Last April, a 9-year-old boy was killed in an apartment fire in Charlotte, WBTV reported.
Federal, state and local agencies are investigating Wednesday’s fatal fire.
“It’s terrible, right here with the holidays and everything,” said Schaeffer. “They’ve probably lost everything they have, including a child.”
Database editor Gavin Off contributed