CHEROKEE — Camilla Peters said the smile on Kimberly Pounders’ face is infectious.
“She is so precious, always smiling and so outgoing; she never meets a stranger,” said Peters, a friend of Pounders and her family. “She is a special young lady.
“She needs us now. She needs our prayers.”
The 19-year-old Pounders, who has autism, was critically injured Sunday morning when she was trapped inside a fire at her residence in Cherokee.
State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said Pounders, 86 Moody Lane, Cherokee, sustained severe burns from the fire and is being treated at UAB Hospital’s burn center.
“We talked with them (at the hospital Monday morning), and she is in bad shape,” Paulk said. “She’s lucky to be alive at this time, and in bad need of our prayers.”
Peters said Pounders has burns to 40 to 50 percent of her body and that her lungs are severely burned.
Peters talked with a family member Monday who said Pounders had shown improvement since earlier in the day.
“They actually called the family in early Monday, but later in the morning (Kimberly) got a little better and was even trying to breathe on her own. That’s a blessing.”
Paulk said the woman’s father, Freeman Pounders, 40, sustained minor injuries when he rescued her from the manufactured home.
Firefighters said Pounders was asleep in her bedroom while her parents and some friends were outside the home talking. The fire was reported at 1:49 a.m. Sunday.
Witnesses said the fire was between the front door and the girl’s bedroom.
Freeman Pounders used an ax to knock a hole in the side of the trailer near his daughter’s bedroom and managed to get her out. “He thought fast and made an exterior attack to get her out,” Cherokee Fire Chief Chuck Lansdell said. “He did what was needed to get her out.
“Fires can spread quickly in some of the older mobile homes. Our folks and Barton (firefighters) were on the scene pretty fast, and the fire had already gotten pretty intense.”
Officials said someone outside the home saw smoke, but before anyone they could get inside to get the teen out, the fire had spread throughout the structure.
Paulk said the cause of the fire is under investigation.
“Problems with the electrical system is one of the things we are checking out right now,” he said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.