JACKSON — A space heater in a rear bedroom is believed to be the cause of a house fire early Sunday morning in which a 12-year-old boy from Newton County perished and a 16-year-old girl was severely burned in Butts County.
Shawn Wadsworth told WSB-TV that he, his fiancée, and her two children were in house at the time of the fire. Wadsworth said he heard his fiancée and her daughter, Naveah, screaming about smoke in the house, and he got them out, then tried to go back in for his fiancée’s son, identified as Aiden McNutt, but the intense smoke and flames forced him back out.
Wadsworth said Aiden did not live at the home, but was visiting to celebrate his birthday with his mother and sister. He turned 12 on Jan. 23.
Aiden was a fifth-grade student at Porterdale Elementary School. The Newton County School System had grief counselors on hand at the school Monday morning.
According to Butts County Fire Chief Mike Wilson, the call came in about 6:33 a.m from the house on Ga. Highway 42 S. near Indian Springs. Engine 8, which is housed about a quarter-mile away, was the first to arrive four minutes later, with the Jackson Fire Department engine not far behind.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, they made entry into the house and found the boy in the back of the house and brought him out. He was rushed to a local hospital but died from his injuries.
His sister was transported by air ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with severe burns. Her condition is not known at this time.
Chief Wilson said a total of 11 units responded to the fire from the Butts County Fire Department, Jackson, Flovilla, and the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison. He said some of the firefighters and other public safety personnel involved were affected by the tragedy and that a debriefing was held Sunday afternoon, with a second debriefing scheduled for Tuesday.
“We’re going to have local pastors come in Tuesday evening to debrief our firefighters, the 911 operators, Sheriff’s deputies, and others affected by this,” Wilson said.
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King stated in an email Monday evening that after an investigation by local and state fire marshals, it was determined that a space heater in a rear bedroom sparked the fire.
“Please be sure to practice extreme caution when using space heaters in your home and to always keep them a safe distance away from other objects,” King said.
The Red Cross is working to help the family. There has also been a great outpouring of sympathy and support for the family on social media sites.