MORRILL — A 7-year-old autistic girl who died in a mobile-home fire in Jackson County on Thursday escaped her mother's grasp and hid in a closet in the burning structure, according to a fire official.
The girl, Dora Brewer, was scared and "got out of her mother's arms" as the mother tried to get Dora out, said Lonnie Madden, chief of the Sandgap Volunteer Fire Department.
Flames and smoke kept the girl's mother from reaching her, Madden said. Dora was badly burned and died in the trailer, officials said.
Dora's mother, Mary Miller, and Dora's older sister, Margie Woods, escaped with Woods' 2-month-old daughter. Woods and her baby were taken to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, Madden said. Woods was in critical condition Thursday night; her baby's condition was not immediately available.
State police were investigating the cause of the fire but had not released any information.
The family heated the small, single-wide mobile home with a wood stove.
The fire started in the front of the trailer, where the living room and a bedroom were.
The family said smoke detectors woke them up, Madden said.
The fire happened early Thursday. Firefighters were called out at 4:40 a.m., Madden said.
Bobby Byrd, who lives next door in a camper trailer, said he was awakened by Miller yelling for help.
"She said, 'I'm on fire!'" he said.
Miller is 40 and Woods is about 20, and both are disabled, Byrd said.
By the time he got his shoes on and got outside, the front of Miller's mobile home was engulfed, Byrd said. He raced down the hill in his pickup to a nearby convenience store on U.S. 421 to call 911.
Dee Johnson, who lives nearby, said approaching sirens woke her, and she went out to see what was going on.
"I seen the whole top of the hill lit up," Johnson said. "We could hear the woman screaming, 'Is the ambulance coming? Is the ambulance coming?' So I knew it wasn't good."
Twenty-five to 30 firefighters from three departments responded to the fire, Madden said, but it was too late to save Dora.
County Coroner Melvin "Blue" Lakes said an autopsy was scheduled for Friday. He did not release Dora's name Thursday; neighbors identified her.
Dora had sensory processing issues. An aide at Sandgap Elementary, which she attended, said Dora would run if she got upset, Lakes said. Rob Williams, principal at the school, said Dora was a lively girl.
Williams said counselors from the school district and Cumberland River Comprehensive Care came to the school Thursday to help students and staff members. Staff members were "really crushed" by her death, Williams said.
He assembled students one grade at a time to tell them Dora had died and gave them a chance to ask questions. As one little girl in kindergarten left the assembly, she stopped and asked, "Mr. Williams, is Dora really dead?"
"That was really a hard moment for me," Williams said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.