Monday fire in Tullahoma claims 6-year-old's life, injures younger siblings

Monday fire in Tullahoma claims 6-year-old's life, injures younger siblings

December 14th, 2016 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Springfield Police officer Jay Pattie and Zoraida Luna of Animal Control remove a dog from the property of fatal house fire where multliple children died Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, in Springfield, Tenn. (Mark Zalesky/The Tennessean via AP)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.


The following are simple steps suggested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that can prevent tragedy from a house fire.

Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy

Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet

• Teach children not to pick up matches or lighters they may find. Instead, they should tell an adult immediately

Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time

Check under beds and in closets for burned matches, evidence your child may be playing with fire

Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove

Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove

Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches

If you smoke, smoke outside and put cigarettes out in a can filled with sand

If people have been smoking in the home, check for cigarettes under cushions

Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off

Don’t smoke in bed

Electrical and Appliance Safety
Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture

Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL)

If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord

Never overload extension cords or wall sockets

Immediately shut off and professionally replace light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker

Portable Space Heaters
Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices

Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, and that have a thermostat control mechanism that will switch off automatically if the heater falls over

Check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use. Never overfill it. Use the heater in a well-ventilated room

Fireplaces and Woodstoves
Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions

Never burn trash, paper or green wood

Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace

Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed

More Prevention Tips
Avoid using lighted candles

Never use the range or oven to heat your home

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security,

Monday was cruel for some Middle Tennessee families.

As a house fire in Springfield, Tenn., killed four children Monday morning, another fire a few hours later in Tullahoma, Tenn., killed a 6-year-old girl and seriously burned two siblings, both of them younger than 2.

Franklin County, Tenn., Sheriff Tim Fuller identified the girl killed in the blaze as Sophie Burks. Sophie was pronounced dead at Southern Tennessee Regional Health System in Winchester. Her brother, 1-year-old Landen Burks, and sister, 6-month-old Leah Tigue, were flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for treatment, Fuller said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Landen was still listed in critical condition in Vanderbilt's burn unit, sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. Chris Guess said. Leah could be released from the hospital soon, Guess said.

The home where the fire happened is on Blue Creek Road in Franklin County's portion of Tullahoma. Most of the town lies in Coffee County.

Fuller said the fire apparently broke out after mother Kristie Burks walked to a neighbor's house to use the phone.

Another neighbor saw smoke, alerted Burks and called 911, Fuller said. The sheriff said school resource officer Jason Brockman was at his post at North Lake Elementary School a half-mile away when the call came out.

Brockman was the first emergency official to arrive, followed closely by a second deputy, Fuller said.

The sheriff said the children's mother had gotten Sophie out. Brockman and Deputy Troy Parsons, who arrived minutes after Brockman, helped get the two other children out of the burning house.

"The 6-year-old was unresponsive, wasn't breathing," Fuller said. CPR was performed on Sophie at the scene until she was transported to the Winchester hospital.

Landen and Leah had to be taken to a local airport because the medical helicopter couldn't land near the scene because of low clouds, the sheriff said.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents and officials from the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Division of the state fire marshal's office are assisting in the investigation.

Fuller said there was no indication of foul play and the fire's cause has not been determined.

"We're still in the investigative stage," Fuller said.

According to state records, the property is owned by John and Elizabeth Flanagan and has two dwellings on it, both with listed building dates of 1920. The two homes sit on an 11-acre tract that is adjacent to a handful of other homes.

Fuller said the family was renting the Blue Creek Road home and he was unaware whether smoke detectors were installed in the house.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.