Fire officials: Electrical problem ignited Christmas tree - | WBTV Charlotte

Officials: Electrical problem ignited Christmas tree causing fatal fire

Reghin Stevens and Jamarion Martin (Source: DACS, Inc.) Reghin Stevens and Jamarion Martin (Source: DACS, Inc.)

Officials investigating Wednesday's fire that killed two children believe an electrical failure ignited a Christmas tree, which resulted in a very hot and fast developing fire.

"The area of origin for this fire was in the family room, beside a fireplace," stated an Irmo Fire District news release. "Evidence of electrical wiring/arcing was found in the fire debris."

Firefighters responded to the St. Andrews Apartment complex just off St. Andrews Road around 9:50 a.m.

When they arrived, crews learned three people lived inside the residence.

A man and his two children were asleep in the upstairs bedrooms in the apartment when they woke with smoky conditions.

The children's father jumped out a second-story window after realizing he could not safely locate 5-year-old Jamarion N. Martin and 18-month-old Reghin M. Stevens.

The father attempted to save the kids before the flames got too hot for a rescue attempt, according to Irmo fire investigators.

Fire crews later pulled the two kids from the home and rushed them to a local hospital, but it was too late.

Two units were damaged by the flames, but 33 homes were without power due to the fire.

Investigators said it's likely fire sprinklers would have saved the children's lives, but building codes did not require sprinklers when the complex was built.

Challenging doesn't begin to describe what member Breann Bennett went through Thursday.

"It's like a dream you're looking to wake up from, because it just doesn't seem real," said Breann's friend, Fhallen Milligan.

"You don't wake up in the morning and get ready for work and say, 'I'm going to get ready for work and before the end of the day I'm going to return home and my children are going to be gone, and there's nothing I can do,'" said Chakira Hogan.

The women are also members of DACS. The group regularly organizes fundraisers and charity functions.

Often, 5-year old Jamarion and 1-year old Reghin would be there.

"She's more so the diva, the typical girly girl, wanting to be pretty, wanting lip gloss and things like that. Jamarion is more so, 'I have to make sure my sister is OK,' Milligan said. "Like if she's playing with something he has to make sure it's not sharp. It makes you wonder why now, why them and why her?"

They can't answer that, but what they can do, is help their friend get back on her feet.

"It was only right for us to get together and do what was necessary so that she can have a fighting chance at even beginning to grieve," Hogan said.  

Within hours of the fire, DACS had a fundraising campaign going that was halfway to their $10,000 goal before the end of the day.

They're hoping the financial help will give Bennett a better foundation, and a better shot and finding some measure of peace.

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