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3-year-old boy dies in Fort Worth apartment fire

FORT WORTH -- A 3-year-old boy died and six people were injured Friday morning in a fire at an apartment complex in southeast Fort Worth, officials said.

The two-alarm fire was reported at 8:30 a.m. at the Villa Supreme Apartments in the 3800 block of Stalcup Road.

A 13-year-old girl told investigators that she awoke Friday morning to the screams of her 3-year-old cousin and smoke coming into her bedroom.

"She got up and entered the very short hallway where she observed heavy fire and smoke coming from the combination living room/dining room and kitchen area," said Lt. Kent Worley, a fire department spokesman, in an updated press release issued Friday afternoon. "She momentarily saw the young boy in the distance and yelled at him to follow her."

But as the girl turned, the flames intensified, burning her shoulders and back, she told fire investigators. She got her 4-year-old sister, went to a different bedroom and escaped out a window, Worley said.

Firefighters later found the body of the boy, identified by family members as D'acorean Nichols, on the kitchen floor.

Four neighbors -- a 25-year-old woman and her 7-week-old baby and an 85-year-old man and his 63-year-old daughter -- were hospitalized with minor smoke inhalation. Worley said firefighters rescued the 63-year-old woman from her apartment window using a ladder. Her father, who Worley said was too afraid to get on the ladder, made his way to the apartment landing where firefighters were able to help him down.

D'acorean's 13-year-old and 4-year-old cousins, were also hospitalized with minor injuries: the younger girl for minor smoke inhalation and the teen for burns to her shoulders and back.

Though officials initially believed the teen was babysitting her cousin and little sister when the fire broke out, the girl has since told investigators that she had no idea that her mother and her mother's cousin -- the mother of D’acorean -- had left the apartment. She told investigators that she had last seen the two women sleeping on two couches in the living room.

"It turns out that the two women left about 8 to 'go to the store,''' Worley said. "They did not awake the older girl and left the young boy alone in the front area of the apartment."

A great aunt of D'acorean, Melvelyn Keller, told reporters at the scene that D'acorean's mother had taken her cousin to a doctor's appointment when the fire broke out. She also insisted that the teen girl in the apartment was 15 but fire officials say they've confirmed the girl was 13 through her date of birth.

Although Keller said family members had been told the fire was sparked by an air-conditioner unit, Worley said investigators have determined the fire started near a wall in the dining area, on the opposite side of the apartment from the AC unit. He said the cause remains under investigation.

The fire did an estimated $100,000 damage to the building and $20,000 to its contents. Fire officials said there was a hard-wired electrical smoke detector in the apartment but family members told officials that it did not work.