Court names guardians for children orphaned in fire
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Legal family guardians were appointed Wednesday for the three orphaned children of Kristina Kallstrom, who died in a Townsend house fire early Monday morning.
The guardians, Robert Marshall and his wife, of Auburn, Ga., who are the victim’s brother and sister-in-law, were formally appointed in Blount County Juvenile Court early Wednesday afternoon.
According to a courthouse source, family members of both the mother and father of the late Kristina and Paul Robert Kallstrom were present. “Both sides appeared to be amenable,” the source said. “There did not appear to be any strife over who would raise the children.”
The father of the children, Paul Kallstrom, 50, died of a heart attack Aug. 3 and was cremated and interred after a memorial service in the Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery. He worked at ACT Inc. for nine years.
Kristina Kallstrom was a full-time student at Pellissippi State Community College, according to a college official. She was scheduled to graduate next semester with an associate of music degree.
Gayle Waters, of Memorial Funeral Home, said he spoke with Robert Marshall, who told him he was named guardian of the children. “He said he was as close to the kids as any of the relatives.” The Marshalls plan to take the children back to Auburn, Ga., and come back after things have settled down for the same kind of service as the children’s father, Waters said.
The three Kallstrom children, a 5-year-old boy who is in kindergarten, an 8-year-old girl who is a third grader as Townsend Elementary School and a 12-year-old boy who was home-schooled, escaped the burning house safely.
They took refuge, two barefoot, in the family Chevrolet Suburban, which was parked in front of the house that fronted Little River.
Townsend Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Will McCampbell was the third or fourth firefighter to arrive on the scene after the call came in at 3 a.m. Firemen were at the home by 3:10 a.m., but as the first truck crested a hill the roof was collapsing.
Fireman knew family
McCampbell knew who lived at the address — a family he went to church with at Bethel Baptist Church in Townsend.
“When you serve on a small town fire department, it is your worst fear that you know the people involved,” McCampbell said. “It was overwhelming. You pray that it doesn’t happen and when it does it’s heartbreaking.”
The two-story farmhouse’s address is 239 Webb Road, but the back of the house fronts the main road. A driveway leads around to the front of the house.
McCampbell asked the children where their mother was and they all said she was in the room at the right front of the house.
The Suburban was in front of the house opposite their mother’s bedroom. The truck was about to catch fire and another firefighter had transferred the children to a warm fire truck.
McCampbell got into the Suburban and searched for a key or a way to put the truck in neutral to salvage the vehicle for the family, but he was unsuccessful. The truck is a burned-out shell now.
A female firefighter stayed in the fire vehicle with the children, McCampbell said. She said the three children were excited when they learned that a lady who they knew from Bethel Baptist and who worked at Townsend Elementary School was on the way.
The woman was called after firefighters were on the scene and arrived there within 15 minutes. The firefighters knew the children had no extended family in the area. “The woman stayed with the children all day long,” McCampbell said. “She is one of the heroes of this whole story, but she doesn’t want to be recognized.
“It was awful knowing somebody was in the burning house and we couldn’t get inside,” he said. “The house was collapsing.”
Police said Wednesday the fire began in a back bedroom and was electrical in nature. No foul play is susptected.
The house had a tin roof which held the heat inside, forcing the fire to spread outward, McCampbell said. It takes longer for fire to burn through tin than asphalt shingles.
When the tin collapses, all those hot coals are underneath and firefighters have to get the tin off to get water on the embers.
McCampbell said a couple of church members also sat with the children and bought them clothing Monday. On Tuesday the two younger children attended school, the most familiar things left in their lives, Stallions said.
A bank account has been set up in the name of Kallstrom Family Benefit and donations can be made at any U.S. Bank location, he said. Deacons at Bethel Baptist will oversee the fund to made sure the money is used for the children.
Bethel Baptist Church is not set up to accept clothing items, Stallions said.
Staff writer Matthew Stewart contributed to this story.