It was an accident, Aiken authorities said. An eight-year-old at 644 Pinecrest Avenue was playing with matches late Friday night, when the house caught fire around midnight.
Neighbor Marlon Ashley said, "I just saw a whole bunch of smoke flaring in the air and I thought, oh god."
82-year-old Mary Childs and her granddaughter, three-year-old Arbrielle Douse, were found dead hours later inside, Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton said from carbon monoxide poisoning and thermal injuries.
The eight year-old got out and is recovering. Still, family friends said they're worried it won't be the end for him.
Family friend Deborah Moore said, "As far as I know, he's coming around. But he's going to need counseling. He's young and to witness something like that, he can't deal with it alone."
As for Childs, neighbors said they can't believe it was her. She was meticulous and careful, they said, about everything.
"It's just devastating," said family friend Rhea Brooks, "She has always been a safe person."
Moore said Childs and the little girl she called ‘Bree' are both gone too soon.
"She was a sweet lady. She was like a second mom to everyone in the neighborhood. Bree was so sweet. She called me Aunt Deborah. She was just a sweet little girl."
The Aiken County Sheriff's Department said this is tragedy, not a crime. Charges will not be filed.