NORMAN — The smoky smell of a charred house lingered in the afternoon air Wednesday after a fire took the lives of a father and his child in the early morning hours in southeast Norman.
Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey said firefighters were called to 2705 Richardson Drive about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. They entered the burning garage and found a four-year-old girl in the living room of the single-story home.
The child was taken by EMSStat to Norman Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. A man in his 20s was found dead under fire debris in the garage. Both of the victims’ bodies were taken to the state Medical Examiner’s office for cause of death and identification.
The homeowners at 2705 Richardson Drive are listed as Richard and Brenda Finley, according to county records. The owners were the father’s parents, neighbor Ed Moore said, and added that their work requires them to be out on the road a lot because they are truck drivers.
Moore said firefighters removed the child from the home immediately, but it took crews a little longer to find the father.
Moore said the man was a good father who often took his daughter to the park or put her on the back seat of his bike to go bike riding.
“She was as cute as a bug,” Moore said. “He just loved that little girl.”
Moore woke up early Wednesday morning when neighbors across the street knocked on his door to warn him of the fire. They moved their vehicles up the street and waited for the fire department to extinguish the blaze.
“There was smoke all over the place,” he said. “We didn’t have much visibility.”
The neighbor across the street, Melanie Meiser, said she and her husband ran to neighbors’ houses whenever they saw the flames to warn them.
“The wooden top over the garage was on fire and there was so much smoke you couldn’t see the front doors or windows,” Meiser said. “It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
While they waited for the fire department, Meiser said she felt helpless because they could do nothing more at that point.
Meiser said the girl would often come over to play with her children and other children in the neighborhood.
“This is a pretty small neighborhood. We all have kids and they would all play together,” she said. “They were just a normal, little family.”
As other neighbors walked by later in the evening, they slowed down, taking in the scene of the remaining blackened structure.
“I never thought it would be like this,” said Josephine Chacon, who lives behind the house.
Chacon said her dogs woke her up barking around 3:30 a.m. because of the sirens, but she didn’t know the house behind her was on fire.
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire. It took about 20 firefighters 40 minutes to contain the blaze. Preliminary damage estimates the home and its contents to be $135,000.
Bailey said the home had a smoke detector, but it had no batteries.
“We preach that all the time to have working smoke detectors that have batteries,” he said. Smoke detectors should be replaced if they are 10 years old or older, even if they still beep when they are checked.
These are the first fire deaths to occur in Norman this year. Norman had three fire deaths in 2012.