CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The owner of a home where a fire killed two children and left a teen in critical condition had been cited for trash around the property in December.
The fire in the 400 block of Shelby Street in Clarksville claimed the lives of Ann Howard, 11, and her brother Travis Howard Jr., 9, early Tuesday morning.
Their older brother, Joshua Phillips, 14, remains in critical but stable condition at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.
The children’s parents, Travis and Robin Howard, as well as an 18-year-old family friend all escaped without injury.
On Wednesday, News 2 obtained a copy of letters sent to the property owner, Jack Bennett, about codes violations.
According to neighbors, the Howards were living in the home in December when a code inspector sent a notice that “trash needs to be picked up and took off, also behind the house.”
Under the section cited for the violation, the city defined the trash and debris as a danger to the health, safety, or welfare of other citizens.
The letter gave Howard 10 days to remove the trash or face an $800 fee for the city to remove it. It also stated the property owner would be responsible for a $150 administrative fee.
It further listed the Howards names, their phone numbers, and had a note added on Jan. 26, 2015 that the owner had corrected the problem.
However, on Tuesday, piles of trash bags and other items were still visible around the home.
When firefighters arrived to the scene, they reported the fire had blown through windows and was fully involved.
The fire marshal said clutter in the home made it difficult to get inside and there were no working smoke detectors.
While the cause remains under investigation, investigators have said the fire appears to be accidental.
On Wednesday, people left teddy bears and flowers at the scene in memory of Ann and Travis.
Family members described Ann as a sweet girl who was an animal lover. She hoped one day to become a veterinarian.
Travis Jr., who was autistic, was described by loved ones as a kind boy who loved trains.
Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe account to help pay funeral and medical expenses.