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Chief: Fire caused by child with lighter

CONYERS — A child playing with a lighter has been determined as the cause of a house fire that claimed the lives of the child’s four siblings and injured his mother Tuesday night.

Rockdale Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Morgan announced at a press conference Friday evening that investigators with Fire and Rescue, the Conyers Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office had determined the cause “with high confidence.”

“As part of the investigation, several family members were interviewed numerous times this week, including the three survivors — the mother, children’s grandmother and surviving child — as well as the child’s father,” Morgan said. “These interviews support the findings of the investigation.”

Morgan said investigators found no electrical malfunctions and all accidental causes had been eliminated. Lab results showed no accelerants in the samples taken from the home.

“All tips, or leads, the public provided — we appreciate those — they have been investigated fully and ruled out as the cause of the fire,” Morgan said.

The findings of the investigation will be turned over the state Department of Family and Children Services so that the child can be referred for counseling and treatment,

he added.

Morgan said he could not discuss any specifics about the child’s behavior due to his status as a juvenile.

“We have had preliminary discussions with the district attorney of

Rockdale County and it’s his belief that this 6-year-old, and any 6-year-old, cannot form the criminal intent to be prosecuted in Juvenile Court,” Morgan said. “The takeaway of this is that this was a tragic event, so we want to make sure that this 6-year-old gets the help he needs.”

Rockdale Fire and Rescue firefighters were called to a duplex at 1149 Pinedale Circle about 11 p.m. Tuesday. Ah’Dariya Glass, 9, Dar’Shawn Glass, 7, Deon Glass, 8 months, and Armoni Roberts, 3, died in the blaze. The children’s mother Reeba Roberts Glass, grandmother and 6-year-old brother were able to escape. Reba Glass reportedly dropped the 6-year-old from a second story window to safety and then jumped out herself. Glass, who suffered burns over 40 percent of her body, was unable to reach her other four children. Morgan said firefighters found the victims in their beds.

Glass’s mother, who was downstairs in the duplex, was able to get out the front door to safety.

Glass remains in serious condition at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Rockdale Fire and Rescue reported Thursday that there were no smoke detectors in the two upstairs bedrooms of the rented duplex; a smoke detector on the first floor did not have batteries.

State Fire Marshal Dwayne Garriss said state law requires smoke alarms in sleeping rooms. He said landlords are required to provide smoke detectors initially, but maintenance of the smoke detectors is the responsibility of the tenant. He said the landlord in this case would not be held liable by the state.

Sprinklers were not required in multi-family housing at the time the duplex was built in 1983.

Morgan said the scenario of what happened Tuesday night came together Friday after 3 p.m. when he received reports from the agencies involved.

Morgan said the tragic event has rallied the community in support of the Glass family. At the same time, he said, it has taken a toll on firefighters.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “We deal with it internally, within the fire department,” adding that counseling is provided to firefighters as needed. “We are a brotherhood, and we support each other,” he said.