Mother shares heartbreak after son, his 10-month-old child killed in Winston-Salem apartment fire

Piedmont Triad News

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s a device in place to save lives, but the smoke alarms in a Winston-Salem apartment could not help wake up a family as their home was on fire. 

Winston-Salem firefighters battled the flames at the Green Oaks Apartments on White Meadow Lane around 1:26 a.m. Sunday. 

“I just happened to go to the door and then when I went to the door it was a whole bunch of flames,” said Brian Sanders, an upstairs neighbor. “I just started grabbing my kids and burst out the door.” 

Neighbors like Sanders saw the flames and smelled thick smoke coming from the apartment. 

“We just kept trying to bang on the door,” said John Davis, a neighbor next door. “Get somebody out, but by that time the fire people came and I told them I believe a baby in there and they kicked the door in.” 

Winston-Salem Assistant Fire Chief A.T. Byrum told FOX8 a fire broke out in the kitchen, most likely when cooking on the stove went unattended. The fire started there and quickly spread to the cabinets leaving the walls inside the unit black. 

Byrum said both smoke alarms were in the bedroom and did not go off at the time of the fire. One was missing a battery and the other didn’t work properly. 

Firefighters searched the unit and found 21-year-old Anthony King in the doorway of a bedroom. During a second search inside, they found his 18-year-old girlfriend and their 10-month-old son. 

“If the fire alarms was working it could have avoided a lot of this,” Davis said.

Fire crews performed CPR on the victims, but it wasn’t enough to save King and his baby.

“It is kind of both sad and frustrating at the same time to know that the detectors were there, but not in operating condition,” Byrum said.

The apartment was built in the 1980s and fire codes did not require sprinklers or fire alarms as they do now. According to Byrum, improvements to the fire codes occurred in the 1990s.

“It was really devastating because that could have been my kids,” Sanders said. “They were in their sleep, I could have been asleep, the whole complex could have been on fire.”

King’s mother Jacqueita Wallington is heartbroken and angered safety measures were not properly in place in her son’s unit. 

“They didn’t even get that option with that warning of them beeps,” Wallington said. “It sucks because maybe if that smoke detector went off maybe one of them would’ve heard it to wake up, to do whatever the case may be, get out.”   

Wallington told FOX8 her son moved into the apartment two months ago to start a family.

“I am trying to deal with it,” she said. “Cope with it and try to pull something positive out of this bad, horrific situation and my baby is at peace.” 

Byrum told FOX8 tenants need to read their lease carefully to know what maintenance falls on them after the property owner inspects and checks things like smoke detectors before move-in. 

“Once the tenant’s in there they’re responsible for whatever the lease says, if that’s included in the lease,” Byrum said. “It is up to whoever’s living there to check their smoke alarms periodically.”

FOX8 reached out to the property management company, Home Real Estate, several times by phone, e-mail and in person and have not heard back yet. 

After the fire, crews from the Winston-Salem Fire Department installed around 20 smoke detectors in the apartment building and stopped by every unit to educate people on fire safety. 

Winston-Salem residents can request a smoke alarm at no cost through the smoke alarm program.

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