Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Long Journey Begins Jacksonville Girls Return from Burn Center after Christmas Eve Fire

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Long Journey Begins Jacksonville Girls Return from Burn Center after Christmas Eve Fire

Article excerpt

More than two months after they were airlifted by Lear jet to Texas with life-threatening burns, two Jacksonville sisters flew home yesterday.

They were greeted at Jacksonville International Airport by family, firefighters and members of the Morocco Shrine, which paid for their medical treatment.

The girls, Joy Hall, 10, and Alexander Hall, 8, were soft-spoken and wore at least a half-dozen shiny bead necklaces -- gifts from hospital nurses.

Joy, whose legs were amputated at Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas, was rolled from the plane in a wheelchair.

"Both of my daughters are doing well," said Pamela Hall, the girls' mother, who thanked everyone who helped her daughters.

For the girls, a journey that will involve decades of healing, learning and help from local programs for burn victims was only beginning, Jacksonville Fire Chief Ray Alfred said.

"Every time they see a fire engine, every time they see someone strike a match, every time they see somebody light a cigarette lighter, they're going to relive that moment when they suffered their injuries," said Alfred, who gave the sisters a stuffed bear and a Big Bird.

Frank Elkins of the Morocco Shrine said he feared the medical care his organization paid for would not be able to save the girls in December. "Obviously, we did that," he said.

Meanwhile, a police investigation of the arson at 1437 Ionia St. continues. Alfred said investigators determined that the fire was deliberately set from analysis and other indicators.

The fire was reported about 3 a.m. Dec. 24. It apparently started in the rear of the home.

Albert Hall, the sisters' 8-year-old brother, said he alerted their mother about the fire after he was roused by the playful beep of a new Christmas toy, a Giga Pet, and smelled smoke.

The boy and his mother were unable to get the other occupants out of the building due to heavy smoke and heat, fire officials said. …

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