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UC house fire kills 2, injures 1

UC house fire kills 2, injures 1
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
A fire early today at a Union City home claimed the lives of a brother and sister and seriously injured their elderly mother as she tried to help them.
Henry Jackson Jr., 61, and his sister, Lola Jackson Holland, 54, died in a fire that broke out just before 3 a.m. at their home on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, according to Union City police and fire officials.
Their mother, 76-year-old Mary Jackson, was transported to Regional Medical Center (the Med) in Memphis as a result of injuries she sustained while apparently trying to help her children escape.
Union City firefighters arrived to find the one-story home at 830 East Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive fully engulfed in flames and several vehicles also on fire in front of the home. The Union City Fire Department summoned assistance from the neighboring Martin, Troy and Rives fire departments.
Lt. Andy Gibson of the Union City Police Department’s criminal investigations division said a neighbor across the street reported the fire about 2:50 a.m. today. A police patrol officer reported he arrived on the scene to find an elderly woman, later identified as Mary Jackson, with severe burns walking away from the burning home. She indicated there were two more people inside, including her disabled son, and the officer said he tried to go inside to check but the smoke and fire had already become too intense.
Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison said Mary Jackson was transported for medical treatment but there was no possibility of rescuing the other two victims from the structure.
Police said Ms. Holland’s son, Michael Holland, was spending the night elsewhere and was not home when the fire broke out.
Edmison said in addition to finding a home already engulfed in flames, firefighters were faced with the possibility of the burning vehicles’ gas tanks exploding and were also working to keep the fire from spreading to neighboring homes.
“There was no way to get inside. That was not an option,” Edmison said, explaining it was strictly a defensive fire for firefighters on the scene.
Firefighters also worked amid bitterly cold conditions, with sub-freezing temperatures overnight quickly turning water from fire hoses into ice on the streets surrounding the home.
One house next door on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive sustained some damage, but a home on North Clover Street behind the burning structure was saved by firefighters “because they fought it from all sides,” Gibson said.
The victims’ bodies were found in the home’s front southeast corner living room and Edmison said Henry Jackson apparently was severely disabled and there was a bed in that area. One of the vehicles which burned was a wheelchair-accessible van parked out front.
Edmison said Mary Jackson reportedly told someone at the local hospital that she awoke, saw the fire and was trying to help her son and daughter escape from the home they shared. Gibson said she was severely burned while assisting and was taken to the Med’s burn unit, where she was in serious condition early today.
Obion County medical examiner Dr. Kirk Stone was on the scene overnight and released the victims’ bodies and the scene to authorities as a death scene investigation, not a crime scene. Gibson, who was at the scene along with police investigator Susan Andrews, said foul play is not suspected but the state fire marshal’s office has been notified as standard procedure.
“It’s a very unfortunate fatality fire,” Gibson said.
At the scene early this morning, Edmison said authorities do not yet know the cause of the fire and Gibson said the ignition point is undetermined. The fire chief said the older model home burned very hot and very quickly.
“It went fast,” he said.
“You’ve got nothing,” Gibson added as he stood near the charred skeleton of the home.
The Obion County Rescue Squad was also on the scene this morning to assist. The victims’ bodies were released to Rawls Funeral Home, but no arrangements had been announced at press time.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

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