At least three people have died as a result of an early morning house fire Monday in Meridian.
Originally, three were confirmed dead by authorities, with another injured, who was taken to a burn center in Georgia.
The three who died were identified as 76-year-old Mary Keen, 47-year-old Mickey Melton and 36-year-old Richard Wilkinson. We are told that Willie Mitchell was injured in the fire and transported by helicopter to a burn center in Georgia.
Coroner Clayton Cobler said autopsies have been ordered.
Emergency responders received the call sometime after midnight to the fire at 1516 35th Avenue.
"The house was cluttered, which caused difficulty locating and extracting the other people," said Fire Chief Anthony Clayton.
According to the chief, one firefighter was injured during the search and rescue.
"We were in the process of retrieving the final body, and the conditions of the structure were so deteriorated until the wall collapsed," Clayton said. "He turned and tried to get away from the falling collapse. Almost made it and a few bricks from columns hit him in the back."
Chief Clayton says the collapse occurred after fire spread to the attic. Because emergency responders had determined that the third person inside was dead, he says they suspended the search and rescue until daybreak.
Greg and Tanjelia Melton say the people involved were all members of their family.
"It was both my brothers and my mother," said Greg Melton.
"It's sad and it's a tragedy to lose them," said Tanjelia Melton.
"The origin of the fire is still under investigation," said Clayton. "It's hard to pinpoint one when it is deteriorated to this point. That's why they're digging around there now, trying to find out, with the fire marshal and ATF."
Even though the cause of this fire is not determined, fires tend to happen more frequently this time of year when it's cold and alternative heating sources may be used as a result.
Clayton reminds the public to practice fire safety.
"Be careful," said Clayton. "Make sure your combustibles are away from the heat source."