By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A Martinville Loop resident lost her life early Saturday, February 15, and a 9-month-old child was severely blistered by the heat as a swift-moving blaze consumed the wooden home in which she resided with her parents and her four children.
Investigators with the office of State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen were still conducting at midweek their investigation into the deadly fire that claimed the life of Christina “Crissy” Atkins and left the child with third-degree burns over much of his body.
The local woman was one of six people in the wooden home, reportedly built almost entirely of heart pine, when the fire began around 1 a.m. in the semi-secluded area east of Alabama 21, north of Atmore. She was the only one who didn’t escape the inferno. A seventh person, reportedly the victim’s daughter, also lived there but was not at home when the home went up in flames, relatives said.
State investigators have not announced a cause of the fire, but a relative of the victim told a Mobile television station that a space heater was the cause of the inferno, which sent flames soaring into the night sky.
“I could see the glow from it as I was coming into Atmore from Bratt,” said Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles, whose agency was dispatched at the same time as units from Poarch Creek Indians Fire Department. “That house burned hot and fast. When you can see the flames from five miles away, it’s a pretty big fire.”
Peebles said AFD and PCI units arrived at about the same time and immediately launched a containment effort to prevent the fire from spreading to surrounding structures, also made of wood.
“The house was fully involved when we got there,” the fire chief said. “There wasn’t a whole lot we could do to save the house, but there was a wooden fence around the property and a wooden shed that could have caught fire. That and just a little wind would have made things go bad real quick.”
Along with causing Atkins’ death, the fire left her parents, siblings and children without a home and without clothes, shoes or any possessions. Neighbors and friends have rallied to help alleviate the problem.
Two separate gofundme accounts have been set up to help raise money for medical bills, funeral costs and other expenses faced by the family. Donations of clothing, footwear and other items are also being accepted by several friends and neighbors of the family.
Anyone in Atmore wishing to donate such items may take the items to the home of Louise Brown, a longtime family friend, at 502 Beck Street. A link is provided to one of the gofundme accounts on Cheyenne’s Chafin’s Facebook page.
Lisa Chafin said any donated shirts, whether men’s or women’s, should be large or medium sizes, and that the family could use women’s pants in sizes 16, 8, 9 and 2 and women’s shoes, sizes 9 and 7.
Any donation of men’s clothing should include large-size shirts, pants in size 36/30 and shoes size 9-1/2. The baby boy wears anything in the 18-to-24 months size, and the family needs everything from undergarments to toothbrushes, toothpaste and diapers.
Ms. Chafin said anyone wanting to help could contact her through a message on her or Cheyenne’s Facebook page.
“On top of mourning the loss of their child and their mother, they also lost everything they had,” she said. “These are our neighbors, and we will be glad to help. Let’s show them what a community can do for a family in need.”