House fire leaves infant, toddler critically injured

          Firefighter Ray West, left, and Chief Michael Belton look over the charred frame of a home in Gulf Park Estates after an early morning fire on Thursday.

OCEAN SPRINGS

A relative of an infant and toddler rescued from a burning home in Gulf Park Estates and in critical condition Thursday at an Alabama hospital is making one request.

“The two kids are in critical care and need our prayers right now,” Susie Williams, the children’s aunt, said Thursday. “They really need prayers.”

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd identified the children as Madden Graham Gunn, 5-months-old, and Benjamin Gunn, 2, who each suffered burns in the 8:05 a.m. fire at their family’s two-story brick home on North 8th Street just outside the Ocean Springs city limits.

From the scene, he said, paramedics took the children and their grandmother Cathy V. Bradley, 57, who was baby-sitting them at the time, to Ocean Springs Hospital. The children later were airlifted to a Birmingham, Ala., hospital for specialized burn treatment. Bradley was expected to recover from her injuries.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department received the first report of the fire, Byrd said, and Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Hurring and Ocean Springs Police Officer Jason Byrd got to the scene first, kicking in a front door to get inside the burning home in an attempt to get to the infant upstairs.

The children’s grandmother had managed to get herself and the toddler out of the home by the time first responders arrived.

The two officers, Byrd said, then borrowed a neighbor’s ladder and climbed to the infant’s bedroom window, where they used a baseball bat to smash it in before Gulf Park Estates Fire Chief Michael Belton, equipped with fire retardant clothing, made his way to the infant and brought him to safety outdoors.

Gulf Park Estates Firefighter David Peto said they arrived at the scene three minutes after the 8:13 a.m. dispatch call, with volunteer firefighters in Fountainbleu also assisting.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though the sheriff said a preliminary probe indicates that the fire likely spread from the fireplace. The children’s grandmother, Byrd said, apparently built a fire and was on her way upstairs when they believe she heard a scream downstairs and went to see what was wrong.

The home went up in flames fast, and Bradley had just enough time to grab the toddler and get outside to safety. Peto said the family’s dog perished.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office was called in to investigate, though no foul play is suspected.

Gerald Pugh, a nearby neighbor of the family, realized his friend’s home was on fire after he heard sirens and went outside to check it out.

“They are like family to us,” he said. “I immediately went down there. They are very nice people. I’m very close to them. The children are always playing in the yard. We are saying prayers for them.”

The children’s parents had already gone to work when the fire started, authorities said. The children’s mother is a nurse, a relative said, and their father works at the Pascagoula shipyard. 

By MARGARET BAKER – mbbaker@sunherald.com

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