SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. (WKRN) – Four children were killed and two others injured in a Springfield house fire early Monday morning.
When crews arrived to the Poplar Avenue home around 3:30 a.m., a woman alerted firefighters people were still inside the burning home.
Firefighters immediately began searching for the victims and worked to knock down the fire.
Springfield Fire Chief Jimmy Hamill said four children, including 2-year-old twin boys, a 4-year-old, and a 7-year-old were killed.
The father, identified as Julian Pope, and an 8-year-old girl were also taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The man was last listed in very critical condition. The girl remains in critical condition.
“It’s devastating,” Hamill said. “This is the worst one I have ever been on with this many fatalities. It’s just terrible.”
A woman and two other children escaped.
The fire is thought to have started in the living room, though a cause has not yet been determined.
“It is not arson – [it was] not intentionally set,” Hamill said. “As far as the cause of the fire, we’re deeming it undetermined.”
The fire marshal and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are assisting in the investigation.
Mom arrested for child neglect 2 months ago
According to the Springfield Police Department, the mother of the children who died in the fire was arrested for child neglect just two months ago.
Police said they responded to the home on Oct. 16, 2016 after reports of unattended children in diapers in the roadway.
Responding officers saw one child, a 3-year-old, outside in diapers and then identified “several more young children” also in diapers outside.
When an officer asked one of the kids where their mother was, a child pointed to a red, Ford mustang in the parking lot.
According to police, 26-year-old Brittany Crayton got out of the Mustang and the officer smelled marijuana coming from the car. Crayton allegedly admitted she was smoking weed in the car for about 10 minutes and her 9-year-old child was supposed to be watching the kids.
She reportedly told Springfield police she had a total of six kids, but one was in the house.
Crayton was ultimately arrested for non-violent child neglect and the children were taken by a family member.
The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) confirmed they have previous history with the family within the past three years. It’s unclear if they were involved in the October incident.
The department said it has been told of the three other children in the home at the time and is following up on their welfare.
DCS also said it is investigating the deaths of the children in coordination with law enforcement.