Family remembers house fire victim: ‘All I can hear is her screaming’

Posted at 12:25 AM, Apr 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-08 00:43:33-04

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) Kathy Lawson's heart is broken. Her sister, Amy Lee Lewis, died early Thursday morning after flames ripped through her Prince George County home.

"It's hard. It's very hard. She loved life and she loved animals," Lawson says.

Brad Owens, with Prince George County Fire & EMS, said the fire started from a burning cigarette near a recliner in the living room of the Tar Bay Road home.

Lawson says her sister's friend heard the smoke alarm go off and he yelled for Lewis to get out. "He said she was behind him and for some reason he lost her in the hallway."

When fire crews arrived minutes later, they said flames were shooting from the home’s front door, windows and roof.

Lawson says when she thinks about her sister inside of her burning home, it brings her to tears. "I can't sleep at night. All I can hear is her screaming," she says.

Firefighters say a smoke detector alerted Lewis and her friend to the fire. They are urging everyone to check their home smoke detectors to ensure they work.

"Unfortunately, what we've noticed is a lot of people don't have batteries in their smoke detectors," says Lt. Terrance Williams from the Richmond Fire Department. "They'll take them out and use them for something else."

Williams also says it's important to have an evacuation plan in place for you and your family. "I think that some people don't think that far in advance. They think about having a smoke detector, but not how they're going to get out of the house," he says.

Lawson is hoping people learn from her family's tragedy. She says she hopes families will make an evacuation plan for their home, so that everyone inside gets out safe. "Don't let them loose from you. Take them out," she says. "Because that it the most horrible way to die."

Lawson tells CBS 6 News a wake will be held for Lewis on Saturday, April 14th at 3:00 p.m. They say the service will take place at a home on Branders Bridge Road in Chesterfield County.