Two Children Perish in Georgia House Fire

Family members say Bazion and Amareeon Watkins were so close they could be mistaken for twins.

When one boy would do something, the other would quickly follow. If 3-year-old Bazion got a treat at pre-school, he would ask for a second one for his brother.

Their uncle, Matthew Jones, said Bazion and Amareeon, 2, were always together. Now, with just three days until Christmas, the family is left planning two funerals after the two boys were killed in an early morning fire Tuesday.

Officials with the state Fire Marshal's Office said the Watkins children are among 10 Georgians killed in house fires since Friday. Of those victims, six have been children under the age of 16.

"Everything they did, they did together,"

Jones said. "They might not have been dressed the same, but they were always together. I don't know if one of them could have lived without the other."

The boys' mother, Tia Watkins, was able to flee the fire with her third child, a 5-month-old daughter, Tamia.

Hancock County Fire Chief Al Butts said the fire broke out in Watkins' apartment in the Heritage Manor Apartments about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday. The boys were found separately in the upstairs bedrooms, the chief said.

The two-story apartment, in the middle of a six-unit building, was the only one destroyed in the blaze. Butts said firewalls on each side of the apartment saved the other units.

Butts said the cause of the fire is undetermined, and there is too much damage throughout the apartment to determine where the blaze began. Jones, however, said fire investigators told the family the fire started because of bad wiring, possibly from an outlet in the living room.

Jones said his sister, Tia Watkins, told family members she was downstairs with Bazion and Amareeon on Tuesday when she realized there was smoke in the living room. Jones said Watkins told the family that she hollered for their mother, who was asleep upstairs, and told her to grab Tamia and get out of the apartment.

By this time, the smoke alarms in the apartment started to go off.

"(Tia) was trying to break open the fire extinguisher," Jones said. "But she said the smoke got too thick and she had to get out."

Once the women were out of the apartment, he said they realized the boys were still inside. They believe Bazion went upstairs and Amareeon followed him. By that time, it was too late to go back in.

"I know (Amareeon) had to go upstairs to find his brother," Jones speculated Tuesday. "He wouldn't have left him there alone."

Butts said the apartment was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene. He said it took the all-volunteer fire department about 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

Jones said the family was concerned about the delay in time police were called and the time they arrived at the apartment.

"Our main concern is that they had to sit in there and burn so long," he said. "We want to know why it took so long ... why don't they get off their dime and get a full-time fire department."

Butts said there was some confusion about when the first calls came into the police department and it took a few minutes longer for firefighters to arrive. He said the first firefighters arrived at the apartment complex within five minutes of receiving the call, but he didn't know what their arrival time was.

"I'm satisfied with our response time," Butts said. "I can't tell you if the children would have survived if we had a full-time department. ... There is no way to know that."

Jones said his family, which includes 11 siblings beside himself and Tia, would band together to take care of their loved ones.

Valerie Jones, Tia's mother, was living with Tia and her children while she waited for a new home to be built.

"We're going to make sure they have a place to stay," Matthew Jones said. "That's taken care of."

Five other apartments, all connected, were damaged in the fire. An apartment official, who declined to give her name, said her company was working to place those families in other available units in the apartment complex.

"We're not going to leave them out in the cold," the woman said.