Official – Alarm wasn’t at issue in fatal fire

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 18, 2014
An Avondale Estates home was completely destroyed during an April 12 fire. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

An Avondale Estates home was completely destroyed during an April 12 fire. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Capt. Eric Jackson with DeKalb Fire and Rescue said investigators don’t think alarms would’ve made a difference in a fatal April 12 fire that claimed the lives of Tami Willadsen and her 10-year-old daughter, Jess.

The family held funeral services for Tami and Jess Willadsen on Thursday, April 17. The fire left Tami’s son, Jack, 5, in the burn unit at Grady Hospital and her husband, Dave, received minor injuries. Investigators have not determined what caused the fire that destroyed the home at Lakeshore Drive in Avondale Estates.

A reporter asked Jackson if the family’s fire alarm was working that evening. The family had recently purchased the home.

“The detective did mention a tidbit in that the alarm or alarms would not have mattered in this instance based on information received stating that the fire was all pretty much consuming the exterior of the house and not the interior,” Jackson said. “At the moment any alarms would have gone off, it would not have had the lead time needed to alert people inside that they needed to exit the home.”

The fire had totally consumed the 5,624 square foot home when fire fighters arrived, nearly seven minutes after someone called 911. The local fire station, Fire Station No. 3 on Clarendon Avenue, had recently moved so it could be rebuilt. The engine from that station was on an unrelated jail call when someone made the 911 call about the fire. The first engine to arrive was from Station No. 7.  Jackson said if the engine had left from fire Station No. 3, the response time would’ve been cut in half. Jackson cautioned against concluding that if the fire trucks had arrived three minutes earlier it would’ve saved lives. The structure was engulfed in flames when the fire trucks arrived and it was clear fire had a head start on the firefighters, he said.

A Go Fund Me Account set up in the family’s honor reported more than $84,000 in donations as of Friday morning. Sharonda Frazier, the family friend who set up the account, said Jack is getting stronger every day.

On Thursday, she wrote,”Today’s service for Tami and Jess Willadsen was such a beautiful display of love and adoration for two amazing people. Dave has requested that if you would like to honor Tami and Jess with a planting, please select a dogwood tree in their memory.”

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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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