DUNN, N.C. — Local and state investigators on Tuesday afternoon were still trying to piece together how a fire started that killed a toddler inside his Harnett County home.
Firefighters were called out at around 5:16 p.m. Monday to the fire at 817 E. Divine St., where they found Jayvalen Blue, 2, dead in a front bedroom.
"It's just heartbreaking," Jayvalen's father, Branden Elder, said Tuesday afternoon. "He was a very good baby. He was very sweet. It's just very upsetting, right now."
Jayvalen's mother, Shantae Blue, sustained cuts to her arms while trying to go back inside the house to rescue him. Five other adults and four other children managed to escape.
Family and friends said they tried to go back inside the house to get the boy, but the flames were too intense for them, they said.
"It was just a bunch of smoke – and that all you could really see. There were just flames going up everywhere," said Tamara Faizi, who lives nearby.
Shantae Blue was taken to Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital and then to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. She was later released and was staying at a local hotel Tuesday.
Investigators with the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal and the State Bureau of Investigation have ruled the blaze as a suspicious fire of unknown origin.
Firefighters arrived at the scene within minutes of getting the call, but the house was fully engulfed by that point, Dunn Fire Chief Austin Tew said.
"There were only three or four windows in the entire house the fire wasn't coming out of at that time," Tew said. "At some point in time, you have to make a decision between a rescue and a recovery. We knew at that time, we were going to do a recovery."
"There wasn't nothing nobody could do," neighbor Monique James said. "It just happened so fast."