County officials, school officials , friends and neighbors are scrambling to help a family that lost one child, has another child seriously injured and lost everything they owned in a Monday morning fire.
The fire started shortly after 5 a.m. in James and Michelle Hutto's two-story wood-frame house at 4667 Red Leaf Way in the Maple Creek subdivision.
Nine-year-old Forrest Hutto was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:57 a.m. by Columbia County Coroner Thomas L. King. Forrest died of smoke and soot inhalation, Mr. King said.
Forrest was a pupil at Sand Hill Psychoeducational Program in Richmond County.
His brother, Andrew Nalley, 12, a seventh-grader at Riverside Middle School, is listed in critical condition, according to a Doctors Hospital spokeswoman. He was burned on his back and arms. Another brother Robbie Hutto, 9, was unharmed. He attends Westmont Elementary School.
The call to the Martinez Fire Department came at 5:31 a.m. When firefighters arrived, they found the house engulfed in flames and neighbors attending to Andrew.
"Before we even got there it was coming through the roof. The walls are still standing, but basically it's a total loss," said Martinez Fire Department spokeswoman Honey Shore.
Firefighters on the scene said the blaze took about 20 minutes to control.
Lorraine Wilkie, who lives with her husband, Scott, across the street at 4666 Red Leaf Way, said she awakened at 5:28 a.m. to "a loud boom," and alerted her husband who went outside.
"By the time we were on the phone to 911, the house was already in flames," she said.
Mrs. Wilkie, an off-duty Gold Cross emergency medical technician, attended to Andrew until an ambulance could take him to the Doctors Hospital burn unit. "I did what I could with what little I had in my jump bag," Mrs. Wilkie said.
It is estimated that Andrew sustained burns to 25 percent of his body.
Harry and Sharon Bell of 4668 Red Leaf Way also were awakened by the fire. "We woke up and saw lights, and thought it was lightning from a thunderstorm," Mrs. Bell said, until Mr. Wilkie knocked on their door and alerted them.
A spokesman with the Georgia State Fire Marshal's Office in Atlanta said Monday afternoon that it could be a couple of days before the cause of the fire is determined.
At Riverside Middle School, school officials are looking for ways to help the family.
"We've sent them some balloons and a basket with some goodies in it," said Riverside Middle School Principal Don Putnam. "He's is such a sweet kid."
Jana Hill, public-affairs director for the American Red cross' Augusta chapter, said the Red Cross is assisting the family.
"We had some volunteers who met briefly with the family and helped them replace some things they needed immediately," Ms. Hill said. "I think it's probably going to be a while until they are ready to work on a place to stay. They've got some really serious things facing them. One of our Red Cross mental-health workers did go out their briefly to speak to them and is working with the social worker at the hospital. They've just got so much ahead of them, they are not ready for us yet."
Mr. Putnam said they were informing students of the incident and were asking for Red Cross donations.
This is the first fire fatality in Columbia County since Harry Spivey, 50, Linda Spivey, 58 and Holly Spivey, 16, died Oct. 4, 2002, in an early-morning fire at their 133 West Lynne Drive home in Martinez.
Donations can be sent to: American Red Cross of Augusta, 1322 Ellis St., Augusta, GA 30901. Donations also can be made at any South Trust Bank to the Michelle Hutto Family Fund.
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