BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) Using layouts of the house that burned, Bedford County fire marshal Jeff Pauley laid out the events of January 17.
A mother, father, and their six children were inside their home on Grove Street. Just before 5 in the morning, a 16-year-old boy spots flames and begins screaming.
Hearing those cries in the next room: his 17-year-old sister.
"She opens her bedroom door into the hallway, sees heavy smoke, shuts the door and very smartly goes to her cell phone and very smartly calls 911," Pauley told reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Firefighters responded quickly to the January 17 blaze, but Bedford police got there even faster. An officer ran inside the burning home and helped the father rescue one of his children.
The officer made it out with the child, but the father stayed inside to try and locate the rest of his kids who were trapped. Smoke caused the man to pass out as the house burned around him.
"Fire suppression efforts took a couple of hours," said Chief Brad Creasy of the Bedford Fire Department. "It was very difficult to get this fire extinguished."
The man and his 11-year-old daughter were eventually pulled out safely.
One firefighter had to climb a ladder to find a 4-year-old girl who was unconscious inside a bedroom. She died on the way to a hospital.
Once the fire was put out, investigators were able to go inside. They determined the fire started in a back closet of a second floor bedroom.
The cause: bad electrical wiring.
"This was just a failure, which we see on a regular basis, of old wiring in old houses," Pauley explained.
Pauley confirmed there were no working smoke detectors inside the house. The family did have a smoke alarm on the first floor, but the batteries had been removed.
The father and his two daughters who were hospitalized after the fire have since been treated and released. A funeral for the child who died is still being planned.