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11-year-old Ga. girl dies in fire while trying to save dog

Tragedy in Spalding County after a young girl ran back inside the burning house for her dog

By Tanasia Kenney
The Charlotte Observer

SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia family is mourning a young girl who died trying to save her dog from a house fire.

Relatives of Katelynn Simonds’ said the 11-year-old loved to smile.

“She was a joy of life,” Charles Beecher told WAGA of his niece. “She was a cheerleader. She was into everything. I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It’s hard.”

Katelynn died Saturday, April 6, when a fire tore through her family’s Spalding County home, fire chief Mike Byrd told McClatchy News over the phone.

Crews were called to the fire at about 5:30 p.m. and were told there was someone trapped inside, Byrd said. The thick, billowing smoke could be seen from a mile away, he said.

Firefighters found “heavy fire conditions” on the first and second floors and worked quickly to get the flames under control, according to the fire chief. Crews found the 11-year-old on the upper level, but it was too late.

Family members said Katelynn went back to save her dog but didn’t make it out.

“She was worried about her dog upstairs, and she ran upstairs,” Beecher told WAGA. “Katelynn, she’s like us, an animal lover. She went upstairs and got that puppy. His name was ‘Little Man.’”

Katelynn’s step-aunt, Tressia Perry, said the girl’s step-father and step-uncle tried to go in after her but couldn’t, WSB-TV reported.

A spokesperson for the Griffin-Spalding County School System confirmed Katelynn was a fifth-grade student at Cowan Road Elementary School in Griffin.

“Our crisis team of counselors and mental health clinicians [are] at the school this week to help students and staff members,” the spokesperson said.

Four family members who were inside the home when the fire started made it out safely, Byrd told McClatchy News. He said the fire was ruled accidental, but didn’t give additional details.

A firefighter suffered an ankle injury, the fire chief said.

Spalding County is about a 40-mile drive south from downtown Atlanta.

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