Two children die in devastating Totz fire

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2019

An explosive house fire Monday in Totz led to the death of 3-year-old twins and severe injuries to their parents.

On Monday at 11:18 a.m., the Kentucky State Police received a call about a fire in Totz. KSP later reported Dennis Chad Howard, 39, and wife, Allyson Howard, 42, were severely injured and were transported to Holston Valley Medical Center in Tennessee and then to Augusta, Ga. for treatment of life-threatening injuries.

At approximately 6:30 p.m., KSP said the toddlers missing during the fire were found and pronounced dead inside the home by the Harlan County coroner.

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Allyson Howard’s mother, Vicki Blakley, was able to provide an update on the condition of both her daughter and son-in-law.

“Allyson’s body is about 84 percent burned and they’ve kept her heavily sedated,” Blakley said. “She’s having kidney failure and she’s in surgery because of blood clots in her foot. They’re hoping that the release of blood clots will help her regain kidney function.

“Chad is 75 percent burned, and they’re going to do surgery to remove dead skin and then do skin grafts. They plan on doing it for both of them if Allyson’s body can tolerate it. They’ll have about six months of recovery in the hospital.”

At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Blakley said doctors had to amputate Allyson’s foot and added she is in critical condition.

“If anybody can make it it’s her, but it’s up to God and his mercy,” Blakley said.

Blakley said Allyson is a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, and Chad works as a part-time postal clerk in Benham. Blakley added the parents do not know about the death of the twins yet, but they will be told when they have the proper strength. A funeral for the twins will be later this week, but there is no scheduled date or time yet, according to Blakley.

“Olivia and Alex were such sweet, healthy children,” Blakley said. “Allyson always did a great job with them.”

Blakley went on to say how Olivia had always been hyper and “she was the boss of the twins.” She said no matter how much Olivia was scolded, she was always so forgiving and lovable. Blakley said Alex was a “man’s man” and he loved to do “guy things” and be around the men in the family. Alex loved guns and Spiderman, noting him as Alex’s favorite.

Blakley said the twins would have been 4 in June.

Blakley said she and her family are currently taking care of Ozzy, Olivia and Alex’s 16-year-old brother. Ozzy was at school at the time of the fire.

“The days ahead are going to be a lot harder,” Blakley said. “We just need a lot of prayer, and I believe in prayer in numbers.”

Blakley expressed how pleased she was with the number of first responders and neighbors who came to help.

“We’d like to thank the fire departments, police and ambulance services that worked so hard and did a fantastic job with them. They went above and beyond for them and we’re humbled by everything they’ve done,” Blakley said. “You would’ve thought the White House was on fire with how many people came to help.”

Blakley said she remembered a time when her photography studio burned down and how many people came by to extend a helping hand. Blakley added she could never forget the kindness she experienced then, after something she called her “pride and joy” was destroyed.

Although Blakley is still dealing with tragedy, she was able to laugh and reflect on the fun her family had on Easter weekend. Blakley said she told her daughter she’d like to see the twins in a matching outfit for once, noting it was hard to do because their difference in size.

“Olivia was bigger than Alex, so that made it hard to plan an outfit like that,” Blakley said.

Blakley said Tera Day, owner of Perfect 10, was able to order the twins identical outfits to wear for Easter and noted how happy it made her.

“Harlan’s the greatest place I could live in in a time of need like this,” Blakley said. “The support of the community is comforting.”

As a result of the tragedy, various organizations and businesses in Harlan County have begun efforts to help the family.

With Love from Harlan, for example, recently set up a fundraiser to help the family with funeral expenses. The organization has received donations of approximately $5,500 and climbing. All donations are being sent straight to Anderson Laws & Jones Funeral Home for funeral expenses.

The School House Inn will be having a dinner April 28. All proceeds from the dinner will be sent to the family.

VIP Tees also plan to combine their proceeds with With Love from Harlan by selling T-shirts. VIP Tees has shirts available in sizes from youth small to XXXL for $15.90 after tax.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the burn victims to help with medical bills, the complete loss of their home and recovery. To donate, visit