In the early hours of New Year’s Day, a fire tore through a home in Alabama, killing a family of five. The victims spanned across three generations of the Alexander family.
The victims have been identified as Carolyn Quals, 63, Tony Alexander and his wife Kimberly, who were 42 and 34 years old, and their two children, Breanna and Emily, ages 8 and 6 respectively.
Those who knew the family described their children as “sweethearts” and “funny and loveable.” Breanna’s teacher said the young girl was everybody’s friend at school.
The fire responsible for the devastating loss occurred at the family’s home on County Road 296 in Bryant, AL. Jackson County Sheriff, Chuck Phillips, said it took the efforts of three fire companies to put out the blaze.
Responders arrived at the scene shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve. The small communities relied on the efforts of the Bryant, Higdon, and Flat Rock fire departments to extinguish the flames.
The source of the fire is still unknown, as reported by AL.com. Jackson County officials are working with the Fire Marshals to determine exactly what turned the family’s rural home to ashes.
Steve Holmes, public information officer for the Alabama State Fire Marshal, said although the cause of the fire has not been determined yet, it was likely accidental in nature. There were no signs of foul play found during the initial investigation.
He continued on to mention that no official cause of death has been determined for the fire victims because autopsies are pending.
All family members were found lying in their beds, likely asleep when the fire broke out. Investigators found one fatal flaw in the family’s home: there were no working fire alarm systems to awaken them.
“Seeing reports of fires that cause a tremendous tragedy are very sad and often they are preventable,” said Rick Scott, Vice President at United Fire Protection. “It is critical for residents in a rental home as well as home owners to test their fire detection systems annually. Testing your residential detection systems is just as critical if not more so than testing a commercial building and its fire alarm and sprinkler systems. We see way too many companies ignore [National Fire Protection Association] Fire Protection codes to save a few dollars. As sad as this is it does remind you to be vigilant about safety in your own life.”
The Tri-County Fire Chief, Jay White, reported that officials involved in the case have a guess as to what caused the fire. The oil heater may have been the culprit, but Holmes said fire investigators are still working to determine the exact origin of ignition.
As a result of the fire, the home was completely gutted. White says this was “the worst he had seen in more than three decades.”
Friends and family of the victims are turning to gofundme.com to raise money for the funeral costs.