Rocky Mount, N.C. — Firefighters in Rocky Mount had to rescue a 5-year-old girl trapped inside a burning house late Thursday.
Investigators said Friday that six children were home alone at 927 Stokes St. when the fire broke out shortly before 11 p.m.
The oldest of the children – 14-years-old Taniya Wiggins – was able to get four of her siblings – ages 12, 6, 3 and 11 months – safely out of the house.
Firefighters found Taylor Wiggins on the floor of her bedroom about three minutes after arriving at the scene.
"It’s a very fortunate situation that she was the only child in there," said firefighter Brad Price, who helped in the rescue. "All we can do now is pray that she makes a full recovery."
She was taken to a local hospital and then transferred to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill for treatment.
Authorities said Friday afternoon that the girl is breathing almost completely on her own and should be released soon.
Investigators said the fire started after food cooking on a stove had been left unattended.
The children's mother was not at home at the time, authorities said, and had left the 14-year-old to supervise the younger children.
Neighbors said the mother had been at home but had made a quick trip to the store when the fire broke out. She returned as firefighters were arriving.
It's unclear whether the mother could face charges. Police have contacted the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services about the case. The agency said it is reviewing the case but that it is not allowed to comment.
Under North Carolina law, however, there's no specific age in juvenile code about the age at which a child may be left home alone. State fire code, however, states no child under the age of 8 can be left alone without appropriate supervision.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, parents must consider the child's maturity and whether he or she is capable of properly caring for younger siblings.