Jackson County Fire Kills Two - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

03/25/03

Jackson County Fire Kills Two

Danny and Michelle Welch lived in Escatawpa for about a year. On two occasions, flames swept through their manufactured home. They survived the first fire. But early this morning, they couldn't escape fire number two.

Neighbor Diane Rice woke up shortly before 4 a.m. to check to see if her husband had left for work. When she looked out the window, she saw smoke near the Welch's home and immediately called 911.

"I went around there and banged on the people's door. I couldn't get them up," Rice said.

Rice then ran to Alvin Butler's home out of fear his home would also catch on fire. He ran outside to help.

"I ran around and tried to beat on the door, but it was locked. To see if it was anybody in it, I kicked the door open, tried to push it open and that's when I noticed I seen her shoulder and I reached around and felt her chest. They were right there at the door, they were trying to get out, but the smoke was too intense, I couldn't open it," Butler said.

If only he were five minutes earlier, Butler believes he could have saved their lives. Fire officials say even with their protective gear, rescuing people from house fires is hard, and commend Butler for his efforts.

"The trailer's hot and smokey trying to find them, trying to locate them and knowing you may be close to them and just can't see them," Escatawpa Fire Chief Jimmy Harris said.

Danny's father also lives in the neighborhood park and says his son was a loving person who enjoyed helping others. Family friend Jewel Phillips says Danny never missed a chance to tell his father how much he cared for him.

"Every time he called his dad, on the phone or even just leaving the house, he said well 'I love you Dad, talk to you later'," Phillips said.

The neighbors say they'll share their happy stories of the Welch's with family members who are driving in from Alabama to mourn this loss.

Fire officials say Danny and Michelle Welch died of smoke inhalation. The fire is believed to have started in the back bedroom.

by Josh Ridgdell & Jennifer Holliman

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