Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

January 23, 2014

Fire claims three lives

NASHVILLE — An early morning Nashville blaze claimed the lives of three people and injured two others.

At 3:25 a.m., the Nashville Fire Department responded to a house fire on Sheppard Avenue that strong winds had spread to a neighboring home. Firefighter’s fought the flames for approximately two hours. The house where the fire broke out was destroyed, but external damage to the house next door was limited to one wall, said Chuck Edwards, Nashville Police Chief.

Artoro Garcia, 39, his stepson, Toby Keith Hawkins, 18, and family friend Christopher Rowan, 17, all perished in the fire, according to Berrien County Coroner Rob Lovein and information released by the Georgia insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Kathy Garcia, 42, and Shay Catlett, 32, sustained smoke inhalation and were transported to South Georgia Medical Center. Jay Hawkins Jr., 20, escaped with no injuries.

“When we got there, the house was fully engulfed, so we turned our attention to saving the house next door,” said Fire Chief Buck Warren. “Everyone did a fantastic job saving that house given the wind conditions.”

Gene Sutton was asleep in the house next door when he was awoken by another person who told him about the blaze.

“I went outside, and all I saw was a big ball of fire,” said Sutton.

Sutton’s bedroom and home suffered smoke, fire and water damage, but the structure was saved.

“The investigation revealed that the fire originated in the kitchen and was the result of unattended cooking,” said Hudgens. “We found nothing suspicious about this tragic fire.”

Several local agencies responded to the incident to assist the fire department, including the West Berrien Fire Department, Nashville Police, Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and EMS.

“With this tragedy in Nashville, we’ve had 15 fire fatalities reported this year in Georgia,” said Hudgens. “I urge all Georgian to use extreme caution while cooking and heating their homes.”

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