Texas House Fire Claims Lives of 2 Tots; Sitter Escapes

Melvin McCaa stands outside his charred home on Baltimore Avenue where two of his children -- Savannah, 4, and Alliyah, 3 -- died in a fire Monday morning.

Fort Worth firefighter Randy Townley throws out burned material from the blaze that killed two children.

MedStar workers take baby sitter Billie Anderson to an ambulance after a neighbor, Willie Jones, helped her escape.

(Willie) JONES



The two little girls were huddled together in the bathroom in the back of the house, hoping it would protect them from the fire that had started minutes earlier.

Their baby sitter, Billie Anderson, was asleep in the front room. She awoke to a smoke-filled room, covered her head with a wet towel and frantically tried to reach Savannah McCaa, 4, and Alliyah McCaa, 3.

But the smoke was too thick, the heat too intense.

Savannah and Alliyah remained in the bathroom, where firefighters later found them dead.

Neighbor Willie Jones, who rescued the baby sitter, was heartbroken.

"Maybe if I had gotten here a little bit sooner, I could have done something more to help," Jones said. "Those were two of the most beautiful children you ever wanted to see."

Monday's fire in the 1200 block of East Baltimore Avenue started about 9 a.m., said Lt. Kent Worley, Fire Department spokesman.

The children and their baby sitter were the only people inside the home when the fire started.

The girls' father, Melvin McCaa, 31, and mother, Maria Ortega, 27, were at work. Another child, Alexandra McCaa, 5, was at school.

Anderson was taken to Harris Methodist Fort Worth hospital for smoke inhalation, where she was listed in good condition Monday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

After she was unable to reach the children, Anderson made her way to the front door, which was locked with a deadbolt, Worley said.

Jones was outside knocking on a friend's door when he saw thick, black smoke flowing from the rear of the house. He asked a friend to call 911 as he ran toward the fire.

Unable to kick in the front door, Jones broke out a front window.

"We knew her as Diamond," Jones said of the baby sitter. "Some kind of way she made it to the front door, but the smoke was so intense that she couldn't stay there. I kept hollering, 'Come to my voice, come to my voice.' I saw her hands crawling along the floor."

Anderson's hands reached through the smoke and Jones grabbed them, then pulled her through the window to the front yard, he said.

Anderson was crying and yelling there were children in the back bedroom, Jones said. Jones went around to the rear of the house to try and find another way in, but his attempts were thwarted by the flames, he said.

Another man unsuccessfully tried to kick in a side door to the house before firefighters arrived.

Fire Department officials said they believe that the fire started in the home's back bedroom, which is adjacent to the bathroom where firefighters found the children.

Based on interviews with witnesses, investigators concluded that one of the children started the fire, Worley said. Family members disputed that claim, Worley said.

There was a smoke alarm inside the house, but the battery was not working, Worley said.

There was little that firefighters could have done to save the children, Worley said. By the time that firefighters arrived, the building was fully involved, he said.

Fire investigators estimate damage to the home is $80,000, and damage to the furnishings is estimated at $20,000.

Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster said her organization will do whatever it can to make sure that the family has shelter, food and clothing.

"We'll provide some emotional as well as physical support," Foster said. "With the children being impacted, it's very important."

The deaths mark the third and fourth fire fatalities in Fort Worth for 2005.

The children's grandmother, Jerelene White, wanted to talk about a better time.

"Friday was a special day," White said. "I got my car washed. We played. They were running all over the yard. They were such happy babies."

Distributed by the Associated Press