They gathered in their yards talking about the night’s events on their phones and to each other, trying to make sense of the tragedy.
“It was just a terrible sight,” said Cameron Pickens, 17, from his porch across the street from the home.
“Everybody was crying in the street because the baby was trapped. They were praying for help.”
Although Pickens and his family have lived in their home on North Church just five years, they have known the Stitts family his whole life, Pickens said.
“They’re wonderful people,” he said.
The metal roof on Drusilla Stitts’ home was buckled and sagging. Only the shell of the home remained. The second floor had fallen through to the first. Piedmont Fire Chief Mike Ledbetter and the state fire marshal picked through the debris trying to pin down the cause of the blaze.
Piedmont police officers stood just inside police tape cordoning the yard, warning off people who came too close to the property.
Ledbetter said the Fire Department received word of the blaze at about 8:15 p.m. Friday and the first fire truck arrived at the house about a minute later. The fire was already showing in the back of the house and starting to come out the front when firefighters arrived, Ledbetter said.
He said the family pointed out the window where the baby was trapped and firefighters entered the window several times.
“The heat was so intense it kept forcing them out,” Ledbetter said. “One of my firefighters has second-degree burns.”
The chief said firefighters were able get to the boy after getting the flames under control. Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown said Friday night his preliminary finding was that the boy had died of smoke inhalation not long after the fire began.
Bobby Ammons lives down the street, but he knew Drusilla Stitts, he said. This is a friendly neighborhood, he added, everybody knows each other.
“We all growed up together,” said Julius Mitchell, who was speaking with Ammons and several other neighbors in his yard three doors down from what used to be Stitts’ home.
One person just passing through the neighborhood that night attempted to enter the house to get the baby out, too, Mitchell said.
“He couldn’t get to the boy,” Mitchell said. “He was all shook up.”
Although the cause of the fire is undetermined, it didn’t involve criminal activity, Ledbetter said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.