POWDER SPRINGS — An early Thursday blaze claimed the life of a mother and put her 12-year-old son in critical condition, leaving neighbors and friends to mourn a tragedy that befell a family just two days after Christmas.
The MDJ has learned, via county tax records and those with connections to the family, the deceased woman from the fire at 4806 Missy Way was Teresa Elrod, while her son Elijah Elrod was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.
The child remained at the hospital Thursday evening in critical but stable condition with his father at his side after the latter was released from WellStar Cobb Hospital earlier in the day, according to Cobb Fire Chief Randy Crider.
Teresa Elrod, who according to her Facebook page graduated from McEachern High School, had studied sculpture at Georgia State University and was married to Brian Elrod, whose Facebook page showed him employed by Glock.
Cobb firefighters were called at 12:33 a.m. to the home southwest of Meadows Road and C.H. James Parkway, Cobb Fire spokesperson Denell Boyd said, with the husband who made the call reporting that his wife and son were still inside the home.
Firefighters upon arrival about 12:37 a.m. saw heavy fire on the back side of the house, with crews bringing one person down a ladder in the front of the house and another down a ladder from the back of the house, Boyd said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though as of Thursday did not look suspicious, Boyd said, adding that no evidence of the use of accelerants had been found.
Early Thursday afternoon, a fire hose remained on the ground in front of the brick ranch-style home with partial basement, with tax records dating the house to 1974. By then, the neighborhood showed little activity, with few vehicles turning onto Missy Way that dead-ends onto the end of another home’s driveway.
News of the fire had reached Kay Cox, who teaches at Mt. Harmony Baptist Church on Veterans Memorial Highway in Mableton, which the Elrods attended. Cox said she knew the Elrods from the family’s many years in the community.
“I just wanted to see — it just looks like the back of the house is just gone,” Cox said. “We’re heartbroken. I’m devastated for them.
“We’re talking good people that love the Lord and do everything they can. Her daddy is a Gideon, went to different churches, gave Bibles out. We’re talking just salt of the earth. I guess God needed her worse than we did,” Cox added. “I think the little boy, he’s critical. I haven’t heard any news — I’ve been keeping up through the church, and we haven’t heard anything differently.”
Though her house stood almost directly across from the Elrods, neighbor Cynthia Sanh said she did not hear anything that may have caused the fire nor saw it until a neighbor next door rang her doorbell, waking her up.
“My kids, my husband and my parents live here with us too, they were all asleep. My mom was awake,” said Cynthia Sanh, a mother of two. “We went outside and my whole street was lined with fire trucks. That main street, going up the hill, was all lined with fire trucks, and the flames were excruciatingly high — that was around 1 o’clock or so.”
Sanh, a member of On Mission Church that meets within Mt. Harmony’s facilities, said she often saw the Elrods at church events or festivals. She and Teresa Elrod texted occasionally as neighbors, adding that while the family “kept to themselves” — a no trespassing sign remained affixed to their mailbox following the blaze — she said the family members “would wave and be friendly when we saw them go back and forth, but that was really about it.”
“My mom, we had to rush her to the hospital when (my parents) first moved in, and (Teresa) texted me and said, ‘How’s everything going? Do you need anything?’ because the ambulance and fire department came out here too, so we all kind of looked out for one another,” Sanh said. “When they were out of town, I’d check their mail for them, and look out for their house. … It’s a friendly neighborhood.”
Speaking with her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter next to her, Sanh said she felt Teresa’s death both as a neighbor and a fellow mother.
“I put myself in her shoes, and from another mother, you never want to see that happening. You always think that you have to be there for your kids, you have to get old, you want to be a grandparent and you don’t go like that,” she said. “From a neighborhood, this neighborhood was built in the 1970s, it’s a well-established neighborhood, we don’t have a lot of theft, it’s very quiet and safe, so it’s really scary.”