Neighbors mourn child killed in Petersburg apartment fire: 'This hurts, it really hurts'

Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 17:10:04-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A Petersburg community is heartbroken after a child died in an early morning fire at the Pinetree Apartment complex in the eastern portion of the city.

Officials confirmed on social media that crews found a child inside the burned-out unit once the fire was under control.

The first 911 call came in at around 3:50 a.m. for reports of a house engulfed in flames and a child trapped inside.

Responding crews arrived only a few minutes later to find flames shooting out of the two-story apartment unit in nearly every direction.

The apartment was a split unit, officials said, and the family living on the top floor was already out of the building. A mother and three children lived on the bottom floor unit, Interim Fire Chief Chris Magann told CBS 6.

"Some residents in the floor-level apartment unit were trapped inside," Petersburg officials wrote in a post on social media. "Nineteen firefighters, operating in small groups, entered the building and successfully rescued three individuals. Tragically, one child was found deceased within the premises. It took nearly two hours to prevent the fire from spreading to other apartment units and bring it under control."

One patient was transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition, officials said.

Witnesses told CBS 6 they saw a woman running out of the burning building screaming, "My baby!" with clear burn marks on her body.

"We’d like to give our condolences to the community and the family members involved. We have one confirmed fatality and one person in critical condition at VCU," Magann said.

Fatal Pinetree Apartment fire

One firefighter and one police officer suffered minor injuries in the rescue attempt.

The fire was so intense, that siding melted on a separate unit from the heat of the fire — even though it sat over 30 feet away.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but officials said the working theory is the fire began in the kitchen on the bottom floor unit.

They said it appeared accidental at this point.

Cathy, who lives in the Pinetree Apartment complex but asked to not use her last name, said she wants to start a memorial of some sort with flowers and other items to show the family support from the neighborhood.

“I cried this morning when I was standing over there," she said. "This hurts, it really hurts.”

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Neighbor Shawanda Green said she has been keeping her distance since she did not know the family.

"Kept my distance for respect," Greene said. “It’s heartbreaking because even though we don’t know each other personally, you think about all the stuff already going on in the world, and for somebody to lose anybody, it’s very devastating.”

Greene has five children and said in a moment when it can be hard to comprehend what — if anything — to do, she wanted to share these words.

Pinetree Apartment fire

“I’ll continue to pray. I’ve talked to my kids already, let them know what happened, and asked them to pray because they know the word of prayer. And so that's just pretty much it. I'm so sorry for their loss and what they're going through. I mean, I can't do much to help, but my words are there for them for sure," she said.

Colonial Heights and Chesterfield County fire units helped respond to the fire.

If you would like to support the family affected by the fire, you can donate to their GoFundMe page, here.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.



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