UPDATE – Two die in Avondale Estates fire

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 13, 2014
Tami Willadsen and Jess Willadsen. Source: Go Fund Me

Tami Willadsen and Jess Willadsen. Source: Go Fund Me

An overnight fire killed a mother and daughter in Avondale Estates.

Capt. Eric Jackson said DeKalb County Fire and Rescue received a call about the fire at 70 Lakeshore Drive at approximately 11:08 pm Saturday night. DeKalb Fire officials did not have the names of the victims, but a Go Fund Me account identified them as Tami Willadsen, 43, and Jess Willadsen, 10.

The father, Dave Willadsen had minor burns and their son, Jack, 5, is in the Grady Hospital burn unit. Cpt. Jackson said the boy is in critical condition.

“Please realize that this family lost everything as their house was completely destroyed and Dave was self-employed and worked from home,” the Go Fund Me account says. “The other families will be displaced for some time until repairs can be done. Donations will go a long way in helping during this terrible time.”

To donate to the family’s Go Fund Me account, click here.

Jackson said investigators believe there was a “gathering” at the home before the fire broke out.

“There were other people than the family that were there,” Jackson said. He said investigators are still in the process of interviewing the people who were there.

Photo taken by DeKalb County Fire and Rescue.

Photo taken by DeKalb County Fire and Rescue.

Neighbors and fire officials said the Willadsens had just moved into the home, which has a view of Avondale Lake. One neighbor, who is also a Realtor, said the home had recently sold for around $800,000 and there were movies filmed at the home before the family moved in. There were also neighbors who witnessed the fire, he said.

On Sunday morning, neighbors gathered in front of the home,  asking each other if they knew what had happened. There was a stream of watery ash visible in the driveway. Someone had left a bouquet of flowers by a tree in front of the house.

Firefighters recently moved out of the fire station closest to the family, Fire Station No. 3 on Clarendon Avenue. The fire station is being rebuilt. Jackson said the relocation of the firefighters there didn’t affect response time. He said there already were firefighters in the area on an unrelated call when the fire broke out.

Someone left bouquet of flowers in front of a tree next to an Avondale Estates house that burned on April 12. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Someone left bouquet of flowers in front of a tree next to an Avondale Estates house that burned on April 12. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

An Avondale Estates home was completely destroyed during an April 12 fire. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

An Avondale Estates home was completely destroyed during an April 12 fire. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

UPDATE, 2:42 pm. Avondale Estates Mayor Ed Rieker released this statement in response to the house fire in Avondale Estates that claimed two lives Saturday evening. 

Neighbors,

Please be aware that tragedy has struck our community with the house fire that consumed 70 Lakeshore Drive on Saturday evening and damaged nearby homes. It saddens me deeply to inform you that two of our beloved neighbors perished and a third was seriously injured. There just are no words that can convey the sense of loss we are experiencing as a community.

Many friends and neighbors have begun efforts to help the families that were affected by this tragedy. We are a caring, close-knit community that will pull together to assist the affected families and we will pass along more information on how you might help.

Respectfully,

Ed Rieker

Mayor, City of Avondale Estates

UPDATE: 3:23 pm.

The death of Tami Willadsen and her daughter Jess has stunned the community. Willadsen’s son, Jack, is in critical condition at Grady Hospital. Her husband, David, sustained minor injuries in the fire.

Tami Willadsen was known in the community for her philanthropy. She was she was chairwoman of the board for EarthShare of Georgia, President of the Museum School Foundation and in November was named Director of Philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy in Georgia.

“I am excited and humbled to serve the mission of The Nature Conservancy,” Tami Willadsen said in a November 2013 press release announcing her new role. “I am proud to be a part of an organization that is looking forward toward solutions that balance the needs of people and the environment in Georgia and around the world.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Heather

    This is an absolute tragedy. I went to school with Tami and she is a loving, caring, beautiful, intelligent soul. I can’t imagine what her family is going through right now.

  • Brad

    The house was completely destroyed. It was right across from the Community Club (Boathouse)–was for sale quite a long time, apparently bought in the past two months and was used for movie shoots last year. It was not an old house at all, maybe 10 years old. Terrible.

  • Cooper 5thgrade same school

    I knew Jess she went to my school and was always a wonderful person who wanted to help everyone and everything she was in fourth grade a grade under me this just makes you think about how precious life is, her mom Tami I did not know very well but I did see her around a lot at the school she was like her daughter helpful and caring we will cherish them in our hearts forever.

  • Dorothy C.

    My heart is breaking at the loss of this precious girl and her beautiful mother. Jess was a piano student of mine for about three years, and she was an unbelievably creative and delightful little girl, bright as a penny, with musical talent no end. WHY OH WHY did they move into that house??? Their former home was brick. Dear God, why didn’t they stay there???

  • restinpeacetamiandjess

    Wow I can’t believe this, I saw Jess walking around school sometimes, I didn’t know her very well but I hope and pray she’s in a better place. Tami was on the board at my school and she sure helped us a lot I hope and pray that she is with her daughter right now in a place where they can watch over their family

  • Emma Tuck

    Jess and I knew each other ever since kindergarten. My heart broke this morning when I got the sad news, I started crying. She was only about 1 or 2 weeks younger than me. Her mom was a very nice lady as well. We need to hope Jess’s brother survives. I will always remember her every time I see a squirrel. I am SO sad and I miss her. I can’t believe it. It’s so unreal. RIP Jess and Tammy, and the best wishes to her brother too. It will be very quiet in the classroom on Monday because Jess won’t be there. Once again RIP.

  • Angela Herndon Fisher

    From Libby Grace Fisher…

    I met Jess when Reese (my older sister) was in second grade and had a play date with Jess. She was one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met in my life. She was a lovely girl, who was very fragile to me. Mrs. Tami was very special to me, too.
    I hoped the fire never happened. Luckily, Jack and Mr. Dave are still ok. I want them Jess and Mrs. Tami to rest in peace. Mr. Dave and Jack, you are welcome to stay in our guest house for as long as you want or need.

    Love,

    Libby Grace

  • Jan Willadsen

    Our most heartfelt thanks to everyone in the amazing outpouring of prayers and concerns. The immediate Willadsen and Eifred families are sincerely more then appreciative to the loving response to this tragic event. We fully expect physical and emotional recovery and will find strength in your continuing prayers. Blessings to all.

  • Jan Willadsen

    Our most heartfelt thanks to everyone in the amazing outpouring of prayers and concerns. The immediate Willadsen and Eifred families are sincerely more then appreciative to the loving response to this tragic event. We fully expect physical and emotional recovery and will find strength in your continuing prayers. Blessings to all, (Aunt) Jan Willadsen

  • Dennis Rotch

    Smoke alarm warning. A recent deadly fire in Avondale begs questions. News reports stated that, although a nearby Fire Station was closed for remodeling, the report of fire was answered quickly by a nearby patrolling fire brigade who found the house engulfed in flames; forcing the brigade to fight the fire from the outside, protecting nearby homes. It appears the fire was well advanced before the unfortunate family became aware that the house was on fire. The house, built within the last decade, had a modern smoke alarm system, meaning all the smoke alarms would be on an integrated circuit; one alarm goes off, they all go off. If the smoke alarm circuit is shut off, the batteries will keep the alarm active for a period of time; after the batteries expire the system is inoperable. The deaths and injuries of the victims suggests that the smoke alarms were inoperable.

    News reports said the couple had recently purchased the house. Was this house sold with an inoperable smoke alarm system? Negligence? Questions need answers.

  • Cooper5thgradesameschool

    As I said before Jess was a sweet caring girl as was her mother whom I did not know as well as Jess. I did not know Jess as the girl who died in a house fire no, I knew her as the girl who would say hello to me in the halls, who when I saw outside of school would immediately greet me in that soft sweet voice of hers. Just yesterday I found out that one day she and two other people were sitting on the playground and they saw someone with a fur hat on and they wondered if it was squirrel fur. Believe it or not that wonderful Jess we all know and love burst into tears because that fur hat could possibly be a squirrel, that day she earned some kind of respect from me because that just shows some serious love and dedication for all living things. All in all Jess was a wonderful caring girl who loved not only everyone but also everything.

Receive the Daily Email DIgest

* = required field