Originally created 03/09/06

Apartment fire kills 4 children



CLARKSTON, Ga. - Christiaen Jackson was watching TV in his room when one of his sisters burst in, telling him there was a fire in their home.

As thick smoke approached, there was little time. Christiaen threw his faded red chair through the window and escaped with a little brother. Their grandmother, who was at home watching over the eight children in the apartment - Christiaen, six of his brothers and sisters and a friend's daughter - was able to escape with two of the sisters.

Four of the children - two boys and two girls, all 6 or younger, perished in the Tuesday evening blaze that DeKalb County fire officials said was the worst fire disaster in their area in more than five years.

"It's bad," said Christiaen, 14, wiping a tear from his eye.

In days past, neighbors recalled the Jackson children would happily play in the streets of the Indian Creek Apartment complex. On Wednesday, the neighborhood was quiet, except for the conversations of residents standing before the gutted two-story brick apartment building.

There, boarded-up windows were surrounded by soot. Distorted, melted plastic chairs outside demonstrated the intensity of the fire. Yellow police tape around the building signified the concern of authorities who are still investigating how the deadly fire erupted so quickly.

DeKalb fire officials declined to confirm that the victims were all children because they wanted to make positive identifications of the four bodies first. The victims' names were not immediately released.

Two adults - Deborah Pyne and Melvin Harris - were taken to area hospitals for injuries they suffered trying to rescue the children. Ms. Pyne was released Wednesday from DeKalb Medical Center, said fire Capt. Eric Jackson. Mr. Harris was in critical condition at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Friends said Mr. Harris, a Liberian immigrant, was severely injured after running into the house to try to save the children.