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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

5-year-old dies in fire

Thursday, January 9, 2003

(Photo)
A 5-year-old child was nearly within reach of her father's arms when she turned and ran into a back bedroom of a burning mobile home in Horseshoe Bend in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, according to Mark Long, a police officer at the scene.

Brittney Alberson perished in the fire as her father, Kelly Alberson, tried to pull aluminum siding from the home, apparently in a frantic effort to rescue his child. Alberson suffered bad burns and cuts on his hands in the process but refused treatment.

Brittney's body was later found in the bedroom she shared with her three cousins.

Kelly Alberson succeeded in rescuing his two nieces and a nephew who were hiding in a closet with Brittney after the blaze broke out. The three children, ages 8, 7 and 5, suffered minor injuries.

Alberson's parents, Jerry and Dolly Alberson, also escaped the burning structure with minor injuries. Both were transported to Fulton County Hospital where they were listed in stable condition Tuesday afternoon. Jerry Alberson suffers from emphysema but was not burned. Dolly Alberson received second degree burns to her face, back and right side, Long said.

"They need help; they lost everything," said Long, who spent most of the night at the scene. "It tears me up to talk about it. I love my job, but this part I hate."

Alberson, his daughter and the three children of his brother had been staying at the home rented by his parents, Jerry and Dolly Alberson, at 1205 Hawk Lane when the blaze occurred.

Fire Chief Mike Hilliker said this is the first time in the 34-year history of the department there had been a fatality in a fire in Horseshoe Bend. Hilliker said he was not yet ready to talk about the fire Tuesday afternoon, except to give basic facts.

"It was fully engulfed when we got there," he said. "A lot of the roof was coming down." The fire department received the call at 1:32 a.m. Police officers arrived first. The first pumper/tanker was on the scene at 1:38, the second at 1:40. Hilliker said seven firefighters pumped more than 20,000 gallons of water on the blaze.

The chief said his attention had been on the fire as paramedics with Baxter Ambulance Service attended to the family. "I checked to make sure they were in the ambulance, and once they were there we focused back on the problem we had," Hilliker said.

Other family members were transported to the hospital, but Kelly Alberson stayed at the scene by himself. Emergency workers found him wandering the streets that morning.

"They've been hunting for him," Hilliker said the following afternoon. "They had him at one time and he slipped away. I don't know if they found him. The last we seen him was this morning at the fire."

But the owner of the mobile home that burned, Bonnie Chapman, said she thought Kelly Alberson had gone to his brother's house.

Hilliker said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined. "It started in the center of the mobile," he said, adding that it might have been connected to an oxygen tank and mask used by Jerry Alberson. "The oxygen would have fed the fire," he added.

Mark Hollingsworth of the Arkansas State Police, assisted by local investigators, combed through the ashes and rubble all day Tuesday searching for clues of the fire's origin but declined to talk about their findings.

Two cars, one in a carport and one beside the structure, were destroyed in the fire.

A plastic trash can stands at the edge of the carport, melted on one side, spilling its contents onto the pavement -- discarded boxes that recently held a doll and toys. A pair of swingsets and a hobby horse stand at the rear of the house near the bedroom where Brittney Alberson died. Plastic from melted swings hangs from chains, and the hobby horse has been reduced to a clump on the muddy ground.

Just beyond the edge of the charred grass a child's wooden rocking chair lies overturned.

Within hours of the fire, assistance in the form of furniture, clothing, food and cash had begun pouring in. Bonnie Chapman offered another home for the Alberson family. Alderman Will Robson, whose ward includes the Alberson residence, worked throughout the day lining up donations for the family. Robson said The Bridge, a community assistance program in Franklin, had provided furniture and clothing.

Horseshoe Bend Assembly of God, where the children attend Sunday school, provided food. Chapman set up a special account, the Alberson Benefit Fund, at Bancorp South in Horseshoe Bend. Collections are being taken at Buddy's Place, a diner at the Diamond B Mall.

"We set this up as soon as we heard about it this morning," said John Carson of Buddy's Place. A poster with the children's ages and clothing sizes is posted beside the diner's cash register, and a plastic gallon jar is on the counter for donations.

Robson said anyone who wants to contribute can find out specific needs of the family by calling 870-679-5994 or 670-5375.



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