SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A special-needs child is dead, her mother severely burned, and more than a dozen people displaced after a Sunday morning apartment fire in Savannah.
The Doctors Hospital of Augusta says the mother, 38-year-old Tameka Robbins, is in critical condition.
The fire started around 6:30 a.m. on the first floor of an apartment building at Kingstown Apartments on Savannah's Eastside.
Mikayla Robbins, 13, and her mother, Tameka, were inside the apartment where the fire started, and they were severely burned. Ambulances brought both to Memorial Health where Mikayla died. Tameka was transported to the Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta for treatment.
Savannah Fire firefighters rescued Mikayla from a bedroom inside the ground-floor apartment, and her mother was already outside.
"Once we got here, it was heavy flames coming off the first floor," Battalion Chief Elzie Kitchen said. "There was one occupant already pulled out the front. We rescued one out the back, and it got to the point where it got so bad, I had to put a ladder up and get someone out also off the second floor."
In addition to those three rescues, firefighters woke and led another six people to safety.
Harold McGirt was asleep in his cousin's second-floor apartment when the fire started, and was woken up by firefighters.
"They just kicked the door in and [were] like 'Get out!'" McGirt said. "The fire had to be pretty bad for them to kick the door right off the hinges and say get out, so it had to be something serious. I'm thankful they were there because, like I said, I didn't even know anything was going on. I was asleep. I didn't know anything. I'm happy they came as fast as they did and got all of us out."
Savannah Fire arrived within five minutes of the initial call, and Kitchen says that quick response is essential to try to save lives.
"That's one thing that we pride ourself on is getting to the fires in a timely, safe manner in order to get occupants out the house because the first, initial phases of the fire are the most critical," Kitchen said.
The burned building has eight apartments inside, and 14 residents are now displaced. The Red Cross volunteers gave comfort, hygiene kits, teddy bears, informational booklets and immediate financial assistance to those impacted.
"I think a lot of people yesterday were in shock, and shock is usually the first thing that happens, then they realize they don't have a toothbrush and things they're without and that's when the Red Cross steps in," American Red Cross Spokesperson Nicoletta Conger said.
The Red Cross says Kingstown Apartments put their displaced residents into hotel rooms Sunday night. The Red Cross will continue to assist and provide them with the next steps.
"It was scary because you didn't know what was going on," McGirt said. "You didn't' know what happened. You didn't know where the fire was coming from. You just know you have to get out, but you could feel the heat up the stairs. When I was walking down the steps when they told us to get out, I felt the heat. It was just on the stairs. You could feel it. The rails, even the steps, you just felt the heat."
Investigators are still working to figure out how the fire started.