Dyersburg Fire Chief Bob Veal said Dyersburg Fire Department fire crews responded to the house fire at 637 Finley St. just a couple of minutes before midnight on Tuesday evening. When firefighters arrived, the two-story house was ablaze with heavy smoke billowing out of every opening.
A woman believed to live in the house was outside and firefighters secured her so they could begin assessing the situation and extinguish the flames. Firefighters could not enter through the front door and ran to the back of the house to find a 49-year-old man hanging out of a window. As smoke poured out of the window, firefighters were able to get the man and take him to safety. He told the firefighters there were still children inside the house.
After learning of children being inside, Veal said one firefighter immediately hoisted another through a window and into the house. This was done even before firefighters had a chance to douse any of the flames. Once inside, the firefighter was able to find three small children and hand them out the window to awaiting firefighters.
Three fire engines, one rescue unit, and 20 firefighters responded to the scene and after extinguishing the flames they terminated command at 4:08 a.m.
A neighbor of the family said she was awakened by people knocking on her door and telling her about the fire next door. She said Tuesday night's events were a tragedy and remembers seeing the twins and the little boy always playing in the front yard.
"If one of the twins got too far away, the other would look around for her and make sure she was all right," said the neighbor.
As the house remains quarantined with caution tape around it, friends and family have begun a makeshift memorial to the family by placing stuffed animals and other items on a sign outside the residence.
A friend of the mother came to pay her respects to the family and placed items on the sign on Wednesday afternoon. She said she hopes the family can begin healing after suffering such a heavy loss.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and fire officials should know more on Thursday. Veal said the situation is sad because of the loss of the two girls. However, he can't overlook the fact that his men were able to work together and get the man and the children out of the burning house.
"At a time when kids are searching for heroes, we have them right here amongst us," said Veal. "Their training took over and they knew what they needed to do. They acted above and beyond the call of duty."