Woman recalls baby's harrowing rescue from Olive Branch house fire

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

OLIVE BRANCH, MS (WMC) - A 10-month-old girl was severely burned after a fire broke out at an Olive Branch home on Monday.

The family said the child, Aliyah Marie, was napping in a room feet away from the main house. The room was fully insulated with working heating and air conditioning.

The two-story building caught fire, and the child was burned. The mother and aunt of little Aliyah rushed in to rescue the child, and they were burned in the process.

"I automatically thought the worst. I was going to pull her out and she wasn't going to be here more," said Mary Jane Thiel, who is the fiancée of the baby's uncle.

Thiel was with the baby's mother when they were alerted that smoke was coming from behind the house. They knew 10-month-old Aliyah was asleep in the back house.

"The front door was covered in flames," Thiel said. "There was no fire to the baby it was all smoke."

It was a daunting sight, and Thiel knew she had to save Aliyah.

"Her mother was in shock," Thiel said. "She didn't know what to do."

Thiel ran through the flames, burning her arm and foot and got Aliyah out of her crib.

"She was limp, unresponsive at the moment, and severely burned," Thiel said.

However, Thiel doesn't consider herself a hero.

"I don't look at it that way," Thiel said. "She is my goddaughter. I look at her as my own."

Thiel and Aliyah's mother received burns to 30 percent of their bodies. They were taken to Regional Medical Center and are expected to be OK.

Her father Winton South said she will be there for about a month and will need skin grafts, but should recover.

He remembers the nightmare of seeing people at his home screaming. He was down the street, mowing a lawn at his landscaping job.

"I looked up and seen people running everywhere," South said. "When I got there, people were screaming I seen my child."

It has been a hard week for South, whose sister Wendy died in a car crash Sunday. South, who lost everything in the fire, said his sister bought the crib where Aliya was sleeping.

"One of the only things I had left came from her," South said.

Aaliyah sustained burns to more than 40 percent of her body. She was taken to The Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati, Ohio for treatment.

The family started a GoFundMe to help pay for expenses related to this tragic event.

"I ran over and everyone was screaming and hysterical, saying the baby is burned, so I grabbed the baby," neighbor Melissa Springfield said.

Springfield said she made sure the child was breathing while they waited for paramedics. Family members said the baby and her parents recently became homeless, and that is why they were living in the building next to the house.

A firefighter told the family it was the television power cord that sparked the fire.

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