ATHENS, Ga. — More than $50,000 has been raised for a young Athens boy after he lost his family in an unthinkably tragic house fire on Wednesday.
Three people died in the fire, which 12-year-old Taeden Johnson escaped. The Athens-Clarke County Coroner's Office identified the victims as 52-year-old Penny Fields, 35-year-old Penyada Fields and a 9-year-old girl as Mariah Fields.
Taeden was taken to a hospital with burn injuries that were described as not life-threatening, as well as some smoke inhalation.
A GoFundMe has been started for Taeden, which so far has raised more than $50,000 dollars.
"He has burn wounds on his face, elbow, and arm but he is smiling and I am so thankful for that. I was able to spend some time with him this afternoon once he was released from Piedmont Athens and while he is in shock about what happened, he is battling a lot of grief," Zac Hendrix, the GoFundMe creator and Taeden's mentor, wrote. "Please join me in lifting him up in your prayers."
Hendrix said he was overwhelmed by the support of the community. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas was among those to post the GoFundMe to social media, helping it rocket past $50,000.
Hendrix said the money would go to pay for Taeden's college someday, and that a financial advisor has already been hired to manage it.
"I didn't expect that," Hendrix said of how much money has already been raised. "But my God is big. I didn't know what the number would be but God gives, He has the ability to make anything His number."
Hendrix said he saw Taeden yesterday, and that the boy was in good spirits amid the tragedy. The mentor added he was headed to counseling today.
"He's battling shock. They're trying to explain it to me that he doesn't know exactly what is happening, but he knows something happened," Hendrix said.
The fire happened in the early morning, with crews called to a home on Spring Valley Rd. at about 3:30 a.m.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated. According to officials, though, early indications are that it looked accidental and "no foul play is expected."
When crews arrived, according to a release, they found the home "fully-involved with fire" and that "due to the extent of fire involvement, crews rapidly deployed hose lines for a defensive fire attack."
"When the crews were able to extinguish the fire enough to safely make entry into the structure, the bodies of three deceased victims were located," a release said.
Fire Chief Jeff Scarbrough called it a "tragic loss in our community" and said "our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of the victims.”
(editor's note: The below video is related to an apartment fire in Marietta from yesterday in which there were no injuries.)