Fatal Fire update

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fire claimed life of mother, daughter, son

By Billy Davis and Rupert Howell

It’s reported sometimes to responding firefighters that someone is trapped inside a burning house.

Many  times, firefighters know, it’s untrue.

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Crenshaw firefighter Hubert Joyner didn’t know for sure, when the assistant fire chief rode Engine 35 two miles south of Crenshaw to a mobile home fire.

It was true. Tragic and true.

The early-morning fire on February 11 claimed the lives of four people, including a mother and her daughter and son.  

The Clarion-Ledger identified the victims as Naomie Moore, 24, and mother Aletha Moore, 51, and son and brother John Moore, 22.

A family member at the scene of the trailer fire identified the three fire victims as relatives.

The fourth victim was identified as Forest Williams, 25.

The four bodies were recovered in a rear bedroom of the home, according to Panola County coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.

Eight other people, ranging in age from nine months to 31 years old, escaped through a bathroom window.

Joyner said he and two other Crenshaw volunteer firefighters unrolled a pair of two-inch lines from the pumper truck, attacking flames that had swept the entire mobile home.

“It was fully involved, from one end of the trailer to the other,” Joyner recalled. “We had the fire knocked back in less than five minutes.”

Panola County dispatchers received a phone call at 4:15 a.m. reporting the house fire. Engine 35 pulled up to the mobile home twelve minutes later, at 4:27.

Volunteer fire departments from Longtown, Pleasant Grove and Sledge also responded to the fire call.

The blackened remains of at least three kerosene heaters were visible throughout the home, though investigators had not determined if the heaters were the source of the fire.

A dangerous ‘metal box’

The overnight temperature had dipped to eight degrees, with four inches of snow on the ground.

Mobile home fires are notoriously dangerous. The flames often move with deadly speed if they’re not knocked back quickly.

Few mobile homes survive a fire and few people survive inside the flaming trailer.

“The metal siding and metal roof trap the heat, giving it nowhere to escape. It’s like a metal box filled with fire,” said Panola EMA director Daniel Cole.

The fire that destroyed the mobile home left little standing. The trailer home’s metal siding lay black and twisted on the muddy ground, opened like the petals of a burned, black flower.

Cole also noted that older-model mobile homes have small windows, and if the doors are blocked by smoke or flames, “it’s almost impossible to escape.”  

He recalled that a family of four died under those circumstances in 2007, in a mobile home on Parks Place Road west of Como.

Last week’s Crenshaw fire repeated that tragedy. Joyner said the mobile home’s narrow bathroom window was splattered with blood, signs of a hasty, painful escape.

It could have been worse. Marchello Stokes, of Crenshaw, was driving to work in Crowder when he saw flames coming out the front door of the mobile home.

He pulled into the snow-covered yard and began banging the horn on the work van. When that didn’t work, he began banging on the trailer itself.

A minute later, Stokes said he was relieved when a man came from behind the trailer after escaping through a window. But there were more inside, with no way out.

“They were saying, ‘Help me! Help me!’ I could hear them inside,” Stokes said.