An early morning fire in eastern Kentucky left five dead and another in critical condition Wednesday. The deadly blaze occurred at the Pike County home of the Billy Wilfong and Tammie Tucker.
The fire started around 2:30 a.m. and engulfed the home, according to The Associated Press. Wilfong was the father of the four children who tragically died in the blaze. Wilfong and Tucker were not married but had lived together for seven years.
Glema Blair, the children’s great-aunt, lived behind the house and rushed to the home to find Tucker and her father trying to enter the burning building and rescue the children and Wilfong, who were trapped inside. The fire was so hot that Blair could not approach the home, telling AP that she suffered second-degree burns from just being near the flames.
Tucker suffered severe burns in her attempts to rescue her children and Wilfong and had to be airlifted to University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington.
The children were a close-knit group, according to Blair, who identified them as Dakota Lee, age 5, Tyler Lane, 4, Cheyenne, 2, and Emily, six months old. Blair said to AP, “They were good kids, you couldn't ask for no better.” Wilfong was 39, according to WSAZ.
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According to Wilfong’s sister, Sherry Milan, Wilfong was a devoted family man, “a free spirited guy whose kids are his life,” reports WSAZ.
Neighbors were shocked by the tragic blaze and officials believe this is the deadliest fire in Kentucky in the last five years. In 2007, 10 individuals, including six children, perished in a house fire in Bardstown, a city in Nelson County, reports AP. Brandon Roberts, a spokesman for Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, said, "I can't remember a whole family perishing in a fire in my lifetime. It's just, 'Oh God.'"
The extreme temperatures of the blaze have stalled efforts by officials to recover the bodies. There were still hot spots throughout the home and officials were waiting for the house to cool down before entering, notes AP.
There have been no reports as to what could have caused the deadly blaze.