Blaze that killed 2 children under investigation

Published 9:00 pm Friday, December 15, 2017

Dorothy Pinkney got out of the car, stood looking at the charred ruins of her niece’s home at 715 Johnson St. and tried to hold back the tears.

“Those were my babies,” she said as she thought about 16-month-old Mariah Dearman and 27-month-old Glen Williams, who died in the Thursday night fire that destroyed the children’s home and the nearby home of their grandmother. The cause of the fire is undetermined and under investigation.

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“They were happy babies,” said Janie Grayson, the children’s grandmother. “They loved playing with their young aunt, Lacie.”

Glen, she said, loved playing with his scooter, and Mariah loved her dolls. “They would push each other around in a cart,” she added.

The fire that took the children’s lives occurred about 9:39 p.m. The first police officer on the scene and firefighters from Fire Station 7 arriving at the home both reported the building was engulfed in flames.

According to Vicksburg police reports, Grayson, who lives at 713 Johnson almost adjacent to her grandchildren’s home, said she was in her house with Glen Williams Sr., Glen’s father, when she heard a popping sound and looked outside to see the other home on fire.

Adrienna Williams, the children’s mother, was asleep in the home with the children when she smelled smoke. She told officers she tried to look for the children, but the home was dark and she became overcome with smoke and had to leave.

Thomas Dearman, 24, the children’s uncle, attempted unsuccessfully to save the children. He was severely burned and was taken to the burn unit at Merit Health Central Mississippi, where he is in critical condition, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Williams, 23, was taken to Merit Health River Region, where she was treated and released, Vicksburg police Sgt. Johnnie Edwards said. No firefighters were injured, Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk said.

The children were declared dead at the scene by Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey. Their bodies were taken to the state Crime Lab in Jackson for autopsies, which he said are mandatory in fire deaths.

Danczyk said the age of the home at 715 Johnson and the materials used to build the wood frame home made fighting the fire difficult, and delayed firefighters’ attempt to locate the children. He said they were found close together in a room and covered by debris from the fire.

“A lot of the landmarks (in the home) like the walls, were in a pile of rubble, so we had to sift through that pile to find the victims,” he said. “The two houses were on the side of a hill with a pretty steep grade and the rear of the home was off the ground, and wherever the fire spread, it consumed the house.

“Fire was under the structure, in the walls, attic and eventually the foundation failed to the rear of the home, which caused the building to be unstable. Our firefighters could only go so far into the building, because it was in a collapsed state and on fire.”

Besides Station 7, Engine 6, the department’s platform truck, rescue truck ambulance and Engine 8 and Ladder 3 were called to the fire, Danczyk said. He said Ladder 3 was used to provide an aerial stream on the fire.

Culkin Volunteer Fire Department provided assistance by backing up Engine 8 at the scene of the fire and had trucks at Station 8 and Station 3.

A gofundme account has been set up for the fire victims by visiting

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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