‘He was everything’: Grandmother of 19-month-old who died in Lee County house fire speaks

Baxter Shurum
Baxter Shurum(Source: Deidre Smith)
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 11:08 PM CDT
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BEAUREGARD, Ala. (WTVM) -An East Alabama grandmother, who recently lost her grandson in a house fire, talked to News leader 9 about how quickly flames engulfed their Beauregard home and why she was not able to save her grandchild.

“I’m numb, I don’t know what to do,” says Deidre Smith, grandmother of the 19-month-old.

Smith is still picking up the pieces after the loss of her grandson, James Shurum, or Baxter as everyone called him.

“He was perfect, in every way, he never cried, he never cried,” says Smith, “I’ve had him since he was 6-months-old.”

Lee County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a structure fire around two in the morning March 18. Both Beauregard and Southwest Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the scene.

Smith was in the bed with baby Baxter the night of the fire. She shares how her granddaughter, who was asleep in the living room where the fire started, woke her up.

“My grandbaby, eight-years-old, she was sleeping on the couch. She came busting in the room hollering, ‘the house is on fire’. Baxter was in the bed with me. I jumped up to grab the fire extinguisher,” says Smith. “I thought he was okay, I really did, and the fire, it kept rolling and rolling.”

Smith says her first instinct was to put the fire out because of how close the extinguisher was to her.

“I didn’t realize how big the fire was, the fire extinguisher was right around the corner,” says Smith.

Smith’s eldest grandson, Destin, ran back inside through the flames to get his still sleeping 13-year-old brother.

“I thought he had the baby, he thought I had the baby. When I tried to go back in, the fire consumed me,” says Smith.

“They drugged me out, I couldn’t get in to him. I couldn’t help. I wanted to die too, they wouldn’t let me”

Deidre Smith, grandmother of James Baxter Shurum

Smith and Baxter’s paternal grandmother, Cynthia Smith, had joint custody of the toddler. They alternated weeks of taking care of Baxter.

“He was sent from heaven,” says Smith, “The other grandmother is the same way I am, he was her everything too.”

It took a total of 12 minutes for the home to burn down. News Leader 9 spoke with Columbus Fire Marshall John Shull about how quickly fire can move through a structure.

“Fire is going to travel very fast in a mobile home, so life safety is most important. It’s paramount, so get your family out of the home,’ says Shull.

Shull says it’s all about timing and planning. His advice is to have smoke alarms in each bedroom of the house.

“It would be a great idea to have them interconnected, so when one alarm sounds they all will at the same time,” says Shull.

Shull also says to not keep your space heaters for more than three years and to not use extension cords for them.

As this family grieves their loss, they can only hope other families will never feel their pain.

The home is a total loss. Here is a list of clothing sizes of the victims:


  • Pant size: 16W, XL in Leggings
  • Shirt size: 2XL
  • Bra: 38D
  • Size 10 Shoe
  • 9 in underwear

13-year-old Male:

  • Pant size: 40x32
  • Shirt Size: tall
  • Size 13 shoe
  • 2X boxer briefs

29-year-old Male:

  • 36x30 pants
  • 2XL shirts
  • 1XL boxer briefs
  • Size 11 Shoe

Cash App donations: $Danye11e

Venmo donations: @Danyelle-Dubose

If you would like to send a gift or gift cards, you can address to 154 side lane Tuskegee, Al 36083.

A family friend, Brandee Lee, has also organized a GoFundMe for the family.