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Child, 3, dies in fire
Official: Blaze puts 77 out of their homes

NORCROSS - Authorities on Monday said a 3-year-old Norcross boy killed in a weekend apartment fire died from inhaling smoke and soot.

Aided by cadaver dogs from DeKalb County, Gwinnett firefighters located the body of Kevin Calderon beneath debris just before midnight Saturday, roughly eight hours after his mom and sibling fled their burning residence in the Oakbrook Pointe Apartments.

Investigators haven't determined what caused the fire at 1635 Pirkle Road, which scorched 10 units and left 77 residents homeless, Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge said.

Kevin Calderon's mother told fire officials she had been burning a fire in the fireplace earlier in the day and was alerted by her 1-year-old child when she was reportedly in the bathroom. Rutledge said the woman went into the living room and discovered the room on fire.

She grabbed the younger child and said the 3-year-old was clutching her pants leg as they escaped from the apartment. Rutledge said the mother realized the toddler was not with her after she made it outside.

She reportedly tried to return to the apartment but was held back by neighbors because of the intense heat and flames.

When the fire department arrived, the unidentified woman was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth for smoke inhalation treatment. The infant was treated for burns at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Federal patient privacy laws prevented Rutledge from updating their statuses on Monday, he said.

Rutledge said it was unclear whether the fireplace was a factor in the blaze, and he said the woman said the apartment was equipped with a smoke detector but it did not sound.

Only six of the 10 destroyed units were occupied. However, residents of all 20 units in the three-story building where the fire struck weren't allowed home, Rutledge said, because crews had to cut utilities. The Red Cross teamed with apartment management to provide residents with assistance.

So intense was the 4:16 p.m. fire that first-responding firefighters could not enter the burning structure, which was starting to collapse, Rutledge said. The bulk of the fire was controlled in an hour, he said.

Rutledge said nearly 60 firefighters were required to battle the blaze and protect exteriors of neighboring buildings.