Local News

Candle, Paper Sparked Fire That Killed Young Sisters

Posted February 15, 2008 5:31 a.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2008 11:06 p.m. EST

— A candle and a piece of paper sparked a fire that resulted in the death of two young sisters in a Harnett County mobile home on Thursday night, authorities said Friday.

It was unclear, however, what led to the paper catching fire. The items were in the girls'  mother's bedroom, where the girls were.

Three girls, all under 7, were alone in the mobile home when the fire started around 11:30 p.m. at the Overlook Mobile Home Park at 40 Mallie Drive.

Arianna Squires-Simmons, 3, and Kaliyah Simmons, 20 months, died. Their sister, Janaya Squires, 6, tried to save them, according to Robert Davis Jr., who said he witnessed the fire and tried to help.

“I tried to get in there. I wanted to get in there. I was trying to save them,” he said.

Davis said he noticed that the mobile home behind his was covered in smoke and flames. He then saw Janaya stumbling out the front door, he said.

Janaya wanted to go back inside to save her two younger sisters, Davis said, so he ran into the burning home to try to save them.

“(It) feels like you were in an oven, that someone turned an oven on real high and put you in it,” he said.

Davis said he was forced to get out before he could save the two girls. Standing helpless outside, Davis said he saw one of the girls at a window, but she quickly vanished. Other witnesses said they briefly saw one of the girls' hands on the window.

“They was crying, the babies. Then all of a sudden, I heard them stop crying,” he said. "That's gonna bother me for awhile."

The girls' mother left them home alone for just a few minutes, Harnett County sheriff's officials said.

"Just prior to the fire, the mother, Echo Simmons, had left the residence to take her mother home, which is approximately 2 miles from the residence," according to a news release. "The children were left at the residence. The mother arrived back at the residence just as the neighbor discovered the fire."

Authorities said they had not decided whether to file charges.

Fire units were at the scene within nine minutes after the 911 call, authorities said, but the home was fully engulfed in flames by that time. Fire officials later found the two girls' bodies inside the home.

The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshal’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the fire.