Fire claims child#039;s life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2002

While most were watching the late news on Monday, the Greenville Fire Department responded to what any firefighter dreads the most n a structural fire with a victim trapped inside.

But what they did not know

on the way n what would be the most disturbing to them was to learn that the victim was a three-year-old child.

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"We received a call to 404 Hicks St., a residence on the corner of Hicks and Winkler streets,

at approximately 9:52 p.m. Monday, and when our first unit arrived they found the structure, a wood-framed house, well-involved in fire," said Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips. "It was quickly learned after they arrived that there might be a child still in the house."

Phillips explained that tactics in combating a structure fire change drastically when a victim is inside, compared to when the structure is empty.

"While we have breathing masks and protective clothing to guard us from the heat and smoke, the victim does not have this," Phillips said. "So if we burst in and start spraying water everywhere, the heat, flames, smoke and poisonous fire gases that naturally rise up in the rooms would come down on the victim n if they are in a pocket of breathable air, this would lessen their chances of survival."

Phillips said his men quickly called for a "general alarm," which brings in all off-duty full-time firefighters and volunteers to the scene for assistance n 21 came as soon as called.

"We had the fire under control in about five minutes," he said. "But it was too late for the victim."

Shortly after the first hose was stretched out, firefighters clad in protective masks, clothing, and wearing air tanks weighing approximately 50-lbs. entered the building, which at the time was still well-involved in flames, to perform a room-by-room search for victims.

Assisted by an infrared camera, the men were able to locate the body of little Asia Lowery, but it was too late. She was located beneath a bed in the front room, which the firefighter's

preliminary investigative efforts determined was the room where the fire began.

Herbert Bowen Sr., his wife Lanitara Lowery and two other children also were in the house when the fire erupted n all were in bed asleep.

"The parents awoke and, realizing that the house was involved in fire, grabbed children and ran to escape," said Phillips. "When they realized one child was still inside, they were unable to re-enter the structure."

The couple managed to bring to safety their 11-year-old and seven-year-old children, but could not rescue the toddler.

When firefighters reached the child, it was too late.

Phillips said although the investigation is continuing, led by Ed Paulk, assistant state fire marshal, preliminarily it is believed the fire started from a faulty wood-burning heater.

Phillips said there were no smoke detectors in the home, and that could possibly have given the family more time to get everyone out.

"I strongly urge everyone to have them n if you have smoke alarms, check them, and if you don't, get some," he said.

Especially during the winter, Phillips says, structure fires are more in frequency than at other times of the year.

"People are using more sources of heat in the winter," he said. "I would encourage anyone using wood-burning appliances to have them and their chimneys frequently inspected and cleaned by a professional."

Also assisting in the investigation was the Greenville Police Department and the Butler County Coroner, who pronounced the victim deceased at the scene.

"Their home was completely destroyed, along with all of their possessions," said Phillips, who on Tuesday did not know for sure if the family had any insurance.