Smoke detectors were unplugged in Horn Lake house fire

Smoke detectors were unplugged in Horn Lake house fire
Published: Mar. 15, 2018 at 7:43 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2018 at 12:36 PM CDT
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HORN LAKE, MS (WMC) - One victim of the fire at a home in Horn Lake on Wednesday morning is now talking about the experience.

Austin Stull and his girlfriend were two of the five people injured in the blaze that killed his grandfather.

Three of the five survivors remain hospitalized. One woman is in the burn unit with burns to more than half of her body.

Eleven-year-old twins are across the street at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, where machines are helping them breathe from smoke inhalation.

All three have a long road of recovery ahead.

Each time Stull has walked into Regional One Medical Center to visit his girlfriend over the past 24 hours, his mind has been flooded with "what ifs." He said he's haunted by flashes of Wednesday morning.

"I wish I could've woke up sooner," Stull said. "I wish I could've stayed up later. Because I went to sleep at 3 o'clock at night, it happened in between then."

Four hours after falling asleep, Stull woke up to a groan from his grandfather and to a room filled with fire and smoke.

"I woke up, it was fully roaring," Stull said. "My whole room was full of smoke. We could not breathe even in my room."

Stull pushed out the window AC unit to escape, then grabbed a hose to try to put out the fire.

Still inside the burning home was his girlfriend--Haley--his mother, brother, sister, and grandfather, Robert Stull.

Thick smoke and the heat forced firefighters to use a thermal imaging camera to rescue the five trapped inside.

"It was hard for me to stay out there," Stull said. "I felt helpless. I felt like I was watching everyone I love get CPR in the grass. I was just crying; I was a mess."

An overloaded electrical circuit is likely the cause of the deadly fire that killed Stull's grandfather.

Firefighters found the only smoke alarm in the home in a box, disconnected and without a battery.

"I think the steam from the shower always set it off, and Pa ended up disconnecting it," Stull said.

In hindsight, Stull now realizes it could have saved his family from the heartache.

"Make sure your fire alarms are up-to-date, make sure you practice all fire safety measures," Stull said.

Mississippi fire officials said 2018 is off to a deadly start. Fire fatalities statewide are up 50 percent from this time last year.

Horn Lake Fire Department, like many fire departments across the county, gives away some detectors for free.

Experts suggest putting smoke alarms inside and outside of every bedroom, keeping them away from kitchens and bathrooms and closing bedroom doors before you go to sleep.

Stull is now preaching the message of fire safety as he sits by his girlfriend's side in the burn unit knowing a working smoke alarm may have saved his grandfather's life.

A family member created a GoFundMe page to help the family pay for medical expenses.

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