Children perish in early morning fire

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Three children died in an early Wednesday morning apartment fire in Port Arthur.

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Perhaps a dozen families were driven from their apartments, as a Red Cross response team tried to render the residents, suddenly homeless, emergency aid.

Port Arthur Fire Marshal L. Paul Washburn said in an issued statement Wednesday morning that fire trucks responded to a fire at 1600 Poole Ave., the Arthur Square Apartments, around 12:10 a.m. Wednesday.

The apartments are east of Gulfway Drive and perhaps a half-mile from the Intracoastal Waterway and near West Crane Bayou. They rest within a nearby residential area of mostly single-family dwellings.

Firefighters found three children inside the apartment; the three were transported to South East Texas Medical Center but did not survive, Washburn said in an issued statement. Witnesses said emergency responders tried desperately to revive the children at the scene, outside the burning, interior apartment unit located deep within the complex, before the children were transported to the hospital.

Dante Allen, a resident, said he awoke to a “pop” that he thought might be fireworks. From his kitchen window, across from the burning apartment, he saw the bright light of the developing fire and called 9-1-1 at 12:07 a.m, then knocked on other residents’ doors to warn them. He said he was not aware of any other injuries among residents.

Allen said he had moved into the apartments about two weeks ago.

Melissa Cormier, who lives in a nearby apartment, said she thought the children and their family were newcomers to the apartment complex.

“I never got a chance to know the family,” she said.

Fire marshals were investigating the scene late into Wednesday morning and the cause of the fire remained under investigation.

In his statement, Washburn said the mother of the children had reportedly taken one of her other children to the hospital when the fire occurred. Neither the family nor the children were immediately identified.

The victims were 2, 6 and 12, Washburn told the Associated Press.

On its website,12News, citing family members, identified the children as Brooklyn McCray, 2; Jayden Pollard, 12 and Brayden Handy 6. The Port Arthur Fire Department said it would not release the names until the report is made available, probably Thursday.

No firefighters were injured.

Washburn said that in Port Arthur this was the “highest number of fatalities related to a single fire since a garage apartment fire in 2009.”

Later Wednesday morning, an American Red Cross disaster response team huddled under a carport area as rain poured down, trying to tend to the needs of residents. Their job was made more difficult, they said, because the apartment complex management declined to assist them in contacting families forced from their homes.

Chester R. Jourdan Jr., executive director of the Red Cross, said an entire unit of apartments — it included perhaps five families on one side of Unit 2, perhaps seven on the other — was without power and their apartments were uninhabitable after the blaze. The numbers were uncertain because some families had left the complex and apartment complex was not forthcoming in providing information.

Natalie Warren, disaster program manager, said the Red Cross would provide shelter and other aid as it ascertained which families were affected. Under the carport, she explained to residents other services the Red Cross would provide, including replacing medication lost in the fire.

“Thank God the Red Cross came,” Cormier said.