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June 13, 2013

June 13--A mother and three of her girls died in a burning duplex at 504 Carmen Place early Thursday in Macon.

Joey Bullard rushed to the scene once he learned of the fire at his sister's home.

He had hoped he could help rescue her and his three neices.

"I was going to try, but I got here too late," Bullard said tearfully. "The rest of my family is dead."

A call came into the 911 Center shortly after 2:10 a.m. and the first firefighters on the scene rescued a man and two teen boys, Bullard's brother-in-law and nephews.

Crews found multiple bodies while fighting the flames in the apartment at the corner of San Carlos Drive, said Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones.

Firefighters were able to recover the first body by 3:50 a.m., but flames were still flaring up through the attic and it was after 5 a.m. before the brick building had cooled enough that it was safe for firefighters to remove the other three.

Jones identified the victims as 36-year-old Jennifer Caffee; 10-year-old Wendy Chapman, who suffered from cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair; 13-year-old Elizabeth Caffee and 5-year-old Holly Tucker.

A man and two teen boys were also rushed to The Medical Center of Central Georgia.

James Tucker, 38, the father of the youngest victim and stepfather to the other children, is being transferred to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Jones said.

He is in critical condition and was on a ventilator, Jones said.

Bradon Caffee, 17, and Scott Caffee, 15, were being treated for smoke inhalation in the emergency room.

Another family member, 12-year-old Nicole, was staying with her grandmother at the time.

Sgt. Ben Gleaton, an arson investigator with the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department, was called to the scene, which is customary in serious house fires.

He was trying to pinpoint the origin of the fire by studying the burn patterns of the blaze.

Teresa Walker said she awoke to the smoke but there was no fire initially in the adjoining apartment at 508 Carmen Place.

Flames were outside her door and she couldn't get out.

"I walked through the whole apartment, trying to get out," said Walker, who is on crutches after her right leg was amputated below the knee last year.

Flames higher than her head where flaring up at both doors.

"I couldn't get out the front or the back, so I had to dive out the window with one leg," she said.

Walker said her rehabilitation had prepared her for all kinds of circumstances, so she was not hurt in the escape.

Veronica Walker, Teresa's sister who lives next door, said there was no way to rescue the victims in the corner unit.

"Everybody was on their cell phones, calling for the firemen to get here," Veronica Walker said. "The fire was coming from both sides, you couldn't get in."

Thick smoke blanketed the end of the block.

A big old cloud or ball of smoke, whatever you want to call it," Walker said. "You could not get down there. Couldn't nobody get in and save them."

The Macon police department is assisting in the investigation.

Come back to for updates and to see video from the scene.

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