A few small baby toys were found intact Saturday inside the Maude Street house where a deadly blaze took the life of 14-month-old Destiny Jackson and critically injured her brother and her mother's best friend, who was baby-sitting.
Destiny's mom, Deidra Jarrett, couldn't bear to look when her mother -- Destiny's grandmother -- plucked one of the child's toys from the debris.
"Destiny was my little princess," Jarrett said through tears, standing outside her house. Her daughter died before she reached Erlanger. Her 21/2-year-old son, Antonio Jackson, was in critical condition at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital, and her best friend, Brandy Curry, was in critical condition and on her way to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., officials said.
The fire at 70 Maude St. happened about 11 a.m. About an hour later, another blaze claimed a life. Chattanooga police initially said Carla Nolan, of 1514 Ely Road, died after a candle set her clothes on fire. Later, officers said the fire could have been caused by a malfunctioning cigarette lighter.
Damage in the Ely Road fire was confined to a small part of the house.
On Maude Street, shattered glass and broken wood cluttered the ground in front of a blown-out picture window in the small frame home.
Jarrett looked briefly around the burned home with her mother, Donna Jarrett, and brother, Shawn Jarrett, but the scene was too difficult to bear very long.
"They were beautiful children," Donna Jarrett said. "She [Destiny] was the best baby ever; she did not cry at all."
Next-door neighbor Edward Woodgett said he called emergency services when he saw flames shooting from the house.
"When I came on the porch, the only thing I could see was flames and smoke extending from the roof and out of that window," he said. "When I went over there to see if I could help, I heard children crying -- and that's when the window blew out."
Woodgett used a bucket to throw water through the window until firefighters arrived. Firefighters found Antonio, Destiny and Curry in a back bedroom after the living room blaze was extinguished.
"They were trying to revive the lady they brought out back. Of course, to me, she looked like she was dead," Woodgett said. "I knew one of the infants, the way she was black and everything, I knew she was dead."
Deidra Jarrett was at work when the fire occurred. She's a certified nursing assistant at Standifer Place Health Center, working weekends to make enough o study at Chattanooga's Virginia College.
Her sister was caring for Deidra Jarrett's three other sons while she worked, the family said.
"She's trying to make something of her life," Shawn Jarrett said.
He said firefighters told him they are looking at the blaze as "some kind of explosion," possibly caused by gas. Whatever the cause, the fire left Deidra Jarrett with barely anything.
"She has no insurance or nothing on these children. She has no insurance on this house," her mother said. "She has no way to bury that baby."
The Chattanooga Fire Department and the police department's major crimes division are investigating both Saturday blazes.
Nolan, the victim of the Ely Road fire, was at home with her husband, Carl, and her 14-year-old daughter. Nolan was alone on the couch when her clothes caught fire, investigators said.
"According to the husband and daughter, she had some sort of cigarette lighter, and we don't know if it malfunctioned," Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Tim Carroll said. "We don't know if some leaked on her and she lit it and caught herself on fire."
Carl Nolan tore his wife's burning clothes off while their daughter got water from the kitchen and put out the fire before fire officials arrived.
"They transported her with some severe burns to Erlanger," Carroll said. "They were about to airlift her with the other victim at Maude Street to the Augusta burn unit, but they pronounced her dead at Erlanger."
Contact Carey O'Neil at email@example.com or 423-757-6525.