Selma, N.C. — Emergency crews found a mother and her child dead after a Wednesday morning fire at Redwood Village Apartments, near U.S. Highway 301 in Selma, according to Fire Chief Phillip McDaniel.
The woman was identified as 21-year-old Jennifer Walker. The Selma Fire Department said she was found in the hallway of Apartment E. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Walker's child, 14-month-old Isaiah King, was found on a bed in a rear bedroom. Emergency workers tried CPR on the boy before transporting him to the Johnston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
“It appeared she was going down the hallway to get that child and probably was overcome with smoke,” McDaniel said.
The fire was reported around 4 a.m. and was contained in Apartment E on the second floor, McDaniel said.
An investigation has shown the fire was caused by discarded smoking materials on a couch in the front room. Firefighters found cigarette packs and stubs in makeshift ashtrays, such as cups. A cigarette was also found on the couch, McDaniel said.
“Maybe it’s a lesson for all of us, especially with smokers, to be careful where you discard that material,” McDaniel said.
Residents at the apartment said the Walker kept to herself and was going to school.
Residents said they banged on Walker's door to alert her to the fire and tried to break the door down, but no one ever responded.
The fire caused about $40,000 in structural damage, according to the Selma Fire Department.
The Red Cross is assisting three families who were also affected by the fire.
Selma Housing Authority, which managers Redwood Village Apartments, said there is a smoke detector and fire extinguisher in each unit. The units are checked every month.
McDaniel said the fire melted the smoke detector in the apartment, so there’s no way to tell if it was working at the time the fire broke out.