Mother, toddler daughter killed in house fire; father recovering from burns

BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. — Fire investigators in Cartersville are trying to pin down the cause of a fast-moving house fire that claimed the lives of a young mother and her daughter.

Firefighters raced to the home on Oakdale Drive in Cartersville around 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

“Upon arrival, we found heavy fire and smoke conditions to the structure and we were notified there were still occupants trapped inside the structure,” Cartersville Fire Department Battalion Chief Hagen Champion said.

Neighbors told Channel 2′s Tom Regan they were awoken by the sound of fire trucks and emergency vehicles.

“There was smoke coming out of the windows, and the windows were shut. Smoke coming out around the seals and everything. There was a lot of smoke,” neighbor Sherrie Chovanec said.

Firefighters forced their way into the home to get to those trapped inside.

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“Units started a fire attack at that point and initiated search and rescue efforts, at which point we located two occupants of the home, which we brought out and turned over to metro EMS for treatment,” Champion said.

Taylor Hammonds, 24, and her 14-month-old daughter, Lennon Hammond, died from smoke inhalation. Hammonds was a teacher at Pine Log Elementary School.

Husband and father Brady Hammonds was taken to the hospital to be treated for burns.

“Our thoughts and prayers are going out to the family, and due to the circumstance, this was just a very bad situation,” Champion said.

Neighbors said the family just recently moved into the home.

“It’s horrible. Horrible. Just breaks your heart this time of year. Any time of year. I can’t believe it,” Chovanec said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

The Bartow County school system released a statement about Hammonds’ death:

“REMEMBERING OUR OWN: Calm, gentle, and patient; they’re all characteristics that made Taylor Hammonds an extraordinary special needs pre-kindergarten paraprofessional at Pine Log Elementary School. Her unexpected passing instantly left a void in her classroom and school community that can never be filled.

“She was a young mother and loved her daughter, Lennon, more than anything,” said Sharon Hibberts, Hammonds’ friend and colleague. “I think her strong maternal instincts helped her with her relationships with the pre-K children.”

“Taylor was so good at what she did,” added Jannell Atkins, another close friend and colleague. “Being a natural nurturer to these sweet kids and our team is what completed our team. Taylor loved these kids as her own.”

Hammonds, an Adairsville High School graduate, had roots in Bartow County and quickly found her second home at PLES this year when she was offered the paraprofessional position.

PLES Principal Tracey Alford remembers her sweet, soft-spoken demeanor and unconditional kindness.

If there was a need, she jumped in to help without asking.

Those closest to her say, “To know Taylor was such a special treat.”

“We loved her and quickly became close to her,” said Hibberts. “She will be missed, but we all know she is where she would have wanted to be...with her baby girl.”

Four extra counselors helped staff care centers Monday morning at PLES, so students and staff had extra support during this difficult time. Additional resources will be available as needed throughout the week.”

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