Local News

Chatham County Fire Kills Two

Posted July 3, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A little girl and an elderly woman died when flames engulfed a home Friday night in Chatham County. Saturday, investigators picked through the ashes looking for clues, while family and friends coped with their grief.

A Chatham County woman arrived home early Saturday morning to learn that her two-year-old daughter and an elderly friend had been killed in a fire. The woman's boyfriend was severely burned while trying to rescue them. He is fighting for his own life.

Lillian Kirby lost her life in the same Chatham County house she grew up in. Firefighters fought to bring the flames under control Friday night. But the house on Jack Bennett Road was destroyed, two of its residents trapped inside.

Right there, where it was burning, it burned for a long time," said witness Billy Powell. "It took a good long while for it to go anywhere."

Kirby, in her 80's, and a two-year-old girl, were overcome by smoke and died before rescuers could reach them. The little girl's father tried frantically to get them out.

Kirby was in failing health and lived in the house with a woman who took care of her, the woman's boyfriend and two children. An 11-year-old boy made it to safety. A two-year-old girl named Jasmine did not.

"I think it's a tragedy," explained Cliff Collins, "but sometimes there's things we can't do anything about. It's over our power."

The mother of the children was at work when the fire broke out. She learned of the deaths when she arrived home around 2:00 a.m. On this 4th of July weekend, investigators are searching the charred remains of Lillian Kirby's home, hoping to find the cause of the fire that claimed two lives.

Dennis Moore, the boyfriend who tried to rescue the two victims is listed in serious condition at the UNC Burn Center. The little boy who survived and his mother are staying with family in the area.