Watch video of the fire scene and reaction from teachers and students at Southeast Bulloch High School. Click on link:
The Stilson community is grieving today after four members of the well-respected Davis family were killed in a Wednesday morning house fire.
Russell Davis, 56, his wife Wendi, 55, and daughters Susannah, 19 and Haley, 17, were found dead inside their home on Stilson Road after a volunteer firefighter noticed flames licking out of the windows while on his way to work, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson said deputies and members of several Bulloch County volunteer fire departments were dispatched to the home in southern Bulloch around 4:54 a.m.
"Upon entering the structure, fire crews discovered four individuals deceased in the residence," he said.
Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch said Wendi Davis and the two daughters were found in one room, while Russell Davis was found in his bedroom.
Four area volunteer fire departments responded, along with firefighters from the Statesboro Fire Department, said Bulloch County Fire Chief Randy Walker.
Anderson said sheriff's investigators, as well as a crime scene technician, and Georgia State Fire Marshal Dan Meallor responded to investigate after the deaths were discovered.
"The victims were identified by family members "and were handed over to Futch for later transport to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Coastal Regional Crime Lab in Savannah for autopsy, he said.
The cause of death will be released after results are obtained, which is expected later today.
This is "standard procedure," he said. Both Wynn and Walker said the fire is believed to be accidental and no foul play is suspected.
Later Wednesday morning, Stilson volunteer firefighters returned to the gutted home to extinguish "hot spots." The brick home was blackened and the roof was partially burned through. Christmas wreaths still hung over charred windows.
Neighbors stopped to talk to each other as they mourned the loss of a beloved community family.
Mitch Madaglia, public information officer for Georgia Fire and Insurance Commissioner Ralph T. Hudgens, said the fire that gutted the 40-year-old structure started near the "rear center" of the home near a computer desk. Several electronic devices were located in the area, he said.
"This is a terrible tragedy," Wynn said. "It's a terrible tragedy at any time of the year, but certainly more so right here at Christmas."
Madaglia said there were no smoke detectors in the Davis home.
Walker stressed the importance of having working smoke detectors in the home, adding that the presence of such could mean the difference between survival or tragedy in cases of house fires.
"They are so critical for early warning especially this time of year when people are using other forms of heat," he said. "I can't stress how important it is."
Wynn said it has been more than a dozen years since such a tragic structure fire claimed multiple lives in Bulloch County.
In that instance, a number of children and adults lost their lives when a mobile home burned in R.V. Williford's Mobile Home Park on U.S. 80 just outside of Portal, he said.