UPDATE: Four confirmed dead in house fire

Monday, September 24, 2012
Unionville firefighters are silhouetted against flames billowing from a Kingdom Road home late Sunday night. Four people died in the fire, authorities said. (T-G Photo by David Melson)

A couple in their 70s and two grandchildren died late Sunday night at a Kingdom Road home near Rover.

The victims have been identified by family members as Leon "Bubba" McClaran, 72, his wife Molly McClaran, 70, and their grandchildren Chloe Pope, 9 and Gage "Buster" Daniel, 7.

One of the bodies was recovered early this morning and a second shortly before noon Monday, Sheriff Randall Boyce said at midday.

"We think the bodies that have been found are those of the grandfather and grandmother," Boyce said Monday afternoon.

Searchers thought a third body had been found early Monday afternoon but it was determined to be that of an animal, probably a dog, Boyce said.


The fire's cause is undertermined, according to authorities.

Victims remembered

Leon McClaran had just turned 72 earlier this month, his son, Leon McClaran Jr., said.


"He was a great guy, always lent a helpful hand, never met a stranger," McClaran Jr. said. "He loved animals and was always cutting hay."

McClaran is known by longtime area residents as the owner of the Pizza Villa restaurant in the 1970s.

"He was a hard worker, willing to help everybody," Lisa Adams, his daughter, said through tears. "He was someone who would give someone the shirt off his back if he could."


"If you needed him or an answer to a question he was the one to go to," John Jordan, a longtime family friend, said. "Everyone he met was a friend."

"Molly was a great woman. They were raising those two kids. I always heard they were doing a great job," McClaran Jr. said.

The children were described as "wonderful" by family members.


Chloe was in fourth grade and Gage in second grade at Community Elementary School.

"Gage liked to be perched up on the Gator (all-terrain vehicle) with his granddaddy. He was like Dad's shadow," McClaran Jr. said. "Chloe was a sweet little girl with beautiful eyes."

Notified too late

The home, at the end of a gravel path several hundred yards off the road, was fully engulfed when a passerby notified authorities at approximately 10:30 p.m.

Lack of nearby fire hydrants forced Unionville fighters to erect a plastic water trough about an hour after arrival at the Kingdom Road home. (T-G Photo by David Melson)

The family members are believed to have been in the living room on the second story of the house, Boyce said. No outer structure remains; a forensics team was searching what had been the home's basement early this afternoon, sifting through ashes by hand.

The searchers include members of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, firefighters and workers from the state fire marshal's office, Boyce said.

Only a few of the walls were standing by the time firefighters arrived on scene.

Those firefighters were forced to stand and watch the home burn for some time after initial efforts due to lack of water and access.

A Unionville firefighter described the situation as a "worst-case scenario" as no hydrants are nearby and large fire trucks could barely squeeze into the space between the home and fences.

Firefighters eventually set up a large plastic water trough near the home from which to draw water.

Much help

Red Cross Disaster Action Team members from the Heart of Tennessee Chapter brought coffee, snacks and water for emergency responders and family members on the scene during the cold, pre-sunrise hours early Monday. By midday, a parade of neighbors and friends were bringing food and water as grieving family members sat beside a gravel road on the property for hours while the bodies were recovered.

"Our hearts go out to those family members who have lost their loved ones in the fire," said Executive Director Mike Cowles in a press release. "In the wake of this tragedy, the American Red Cross strongly encourages community members to check their smoke detectors and review their family disaster plans now to ensure that they are ready and able to prepare for, prevent and respond to house fires and other disasters."