Child playing with lighter blamed for NoDa fire that burned 7-year-old

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A young girl is recovering from serious injuries after being rescued from an apartment fire in NoDa in February, and investigators have now determined the cause.

Officials told Channel 9 that firefighters returning from another call in the early morning hours of Feb. 6 spotted the fire and the Twin Oaks Apartments on East 36th Street just after 2 a.m.

They found flames and smoke coming from one of the units, and neighbors said heavy smoke was coming out of the home and that the fire was so powerful it blew out the windows.

Fire crews had to pull 7-year-old Katlyn Cook out of the building and rushed her to Carolinas Medical Center with severe burns.

A maintenance worker told Channel 9 that Katlyn is a second-grader and suffered second- and third-degree burns, and was flown to the Wake Forest Baptist burn center in Winston-Salem.

She was placed on a breathing tube and suffered burns to more than half her body, her mother, Rajeeni Cook, told Channel 9.

Cook described the horrifying ordeal.

"I just heard her screaming, 'Mommy,' and when I looked up I saw the fire under the door," Cook said.

Her daughter was trapped in her bedroom at the rear of the home.

On Tuesday, Charlotte fire investigators told Channel 9 that the fire was accidental in nature and was started by a juvenile playing with a lighter.

The fire sent two families racing for safety and Channel 9 learned that it took 27 firefighters nearly a half hour to get the fire under control.

“Circumstances just presented the opportunity for them to get in there, really just in the nick of time to make this rescue," Battalion Chief Rob Cannon said.

The biggest concern in the neighborhood is Katlyn's well-being, and friends told Channel 9 that they are praying for her.

One neighbor told Channel 9 that her son is in the second grade with the Katlyn and that she's reached out to her mother.

“I texted her and said I was praying for her,” said Ceci Alexander. “She texted me back saying she was burnt really bad."

The attic of the neighboring unit was also damaged in the fire and the Red Cross was called to help a total of five people who were displaced.

A nonprofit that helps burned children and the community are helping the family.

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