CLUTCHING A gray-and-pink blanket she had made for her 4-year-old niece, tears streaming from her eyes, Nikia Craig said Sunday that she was responsible for the house fire that killed her niece and grandmother that morning.
"It was my fault," Craig, 19, said outside the family's North Philadelphia red-brick rowhouse on Firth Street near 13th. "I was about to cook some onion rings, and I fell asleep. It had to happen so quick."
The kitchen fire started from a pot of grease left cooking on the stove, according to family members, and began about 12:35 a.m. Trapped and killed in the front bedroom on the second floor were Craig's niece, Nevaeh Bryant, 4, and Nevaeh's great-grandmother, Ardalia Bumpus, 79.
The little girl's mother, Jimia Thomas, was hanging outside a few blocks away with an uncle when the fire started. On Sunday, she said that she had named her daughter Nevaeh because it's "heaven spelled backwards."
"She turned out to be such a little angel," said Thomas, 23. "She was such a good little girl."
Craig is Thomas' sister. She saved Thomas' other daughter, 13-month-old Allura Alston, from the burning house. The baby, who has asthma, was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children and released later Sunday.
Craig admitted that she had left the stove on in the back kitchen, then had gone to the front living room to watch TV with another sister, Kevonya Bumpus.
She said she then "nodded off" on the couch and that Kevonya "probably went to sleep before me." Craig was awakened by her uncle, Gregory Bumpus. The kitchen was smoky, and he told her to get her two nieces, sleeping upstairs.
Craig ran upstairs and found Allura and Nevaeh sleeping on the same bed in the middle bedroom. She scooped up Allura and grabbed Nevaeh by her collar. She thought Nevaeh was behind her when she rushed downstairs, but the 4-year-old must have run into the front bedroom, where great-grandmother Bumpus was, Craig said.
Ardalia Bumpus' daughter Tommasine Adams, who lives two doors down, said her brother, Gregory, wanted to go back into the house to get his mother and Nevaeh Neighbors wouldn't let him, however, because the fire was raging. Kevonya had also made it out.
The Fire Department got the fire under control about 1:30 a.m. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Adams said that her mother's house had smoke detectors, but for some reason they did not go off initially. She said that her mother and father, Willie Thomas Bumpus, who died in 2010 of cancer at age 78, "loved church, shopping and fishing. They did everything together." Adams was one of six children.