Family mourns loss of father, two toddlers after fire

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A Lexington County family is reeling from the loss of a father and two young children, who were killed in a Sunday morning house fire.

Before the house was destroyed, it was full of history. "My grandma had it built when she first moved here years ago, before I was even born," said family member Ethel Houston.

Rutha Gaines said the best thing in life you can look forward to is opening a door and seeing your grandchildren charge you with a smile. "They had special toys," said Gaines, "They pushed their little car down there."

She is talking about her two and three-year-old grandsons, Almata and Little Harvey. "They love for me to feed them even though they could feed themselves," claimed Gaines, "They just thought grandma was the best."

But instead of enjoying her little ones on this Monday, she's remembering them. Three of the nine inside at the time of the fire could not get out and died. Houston said it was the father, Harvey Jones, and his two little boys. Gaines explained her daughter and her four other grandchildren survived. "I've been through a lot of tragedies in my life, but this is the hardest you can imagine," expressed Gaines.

Gaines was one of the first to find out the little ones didn't make it because she was inside when it happened. "I really can't tell you what happened that night," she said, "All I can tell you, God woke me up in smoke and flames."

Houston is the aunt to the children's mom. She lives next door. "Me and my husband tried to bust back the door," she expressed, "We opened up the door but smoke just took our breath, couldn't even get in there."

Investigators won't say how, but they believe the house burst into flames. While no one is sure how the fire happened, Houston explained the family used kerosene heaters to keep warm. "We wouldn't never glad about using one, but that's the only means we had for heat," she said.

It's a choice she hopes no one else has to make. "No need to have a kerosene heater in your house," Houston claimed.

All that's left of the home built years ago is ash and rubble. "Brutal fire here, but God spares us," stated Gaines, "Spares me four more grandchildren. He didn't take us all."

The family doesn't have insurance, but they do have each other

Gaines said her daughter, the children's mother, is devastated. She said she's spending some time with extended family, trying to cope privately. No funeral plans have been made yet. The family said they're trying to get the money together to make it happen.

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