By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Investigators have not yet been able to determine the cause of a house fire early Wednesday morning that injured all five members of a family, sending three to the Harborview Medical Center burn unit in Seattle.
Assistant Chief Rick Mack, of the Riverside Fire Authority, said the remains of the home are not structurally sound enough for investigators to safely enter and detect the source or possible cause of the fire.
“At this point we haven’t done any physical processing of the scene because the building’s unsafe,” he said.
The RFA is hoping the company that insures the home will be able to provide resources to stabilize the site enough for an investigation.
Without physical evidence, Mack said he needs to talk to the victims.
“We’re praying for the best for the family, but I need to talk to them,” he said. “I really need to visit with them.”
Crews responded at about 1 a.m. Wednesday to a report of a residential structure fire at the home in the 400 block of South Oak Street.
The fire had already engulfed the house when firefighters arrived.
“It was very unusual for us to arrive at a fire scene and have the fire so well developed,” Mack said.
Crews arrived in a timely manner after the initial report, Mack said, but were never able to enter the building due to the flames. Crews attacked the fire from the outside until it was out.
“It seems to me that we have some type of notification delay here and I don’t know what that is,” he said.
Mack said he is hoping the family can shed light on whether there were smoke alarms, or if something else alerted them to the fire.
The home was destroyed, but all occupants exited the house before crews arrived.
“From that regard, the outcome was about as good as we could have hoped,” Mack said.
All five were initially transported to Providence Centralia Hospital for both “thermal and smoke inhalation” related injuries, Mack said.
Three residents, an adult male, adult female and 17-year-old male, were airlifted to the Harborview burn unit, he said. Two other occupants, both believed to be under 10 years old, remained at Providence.
An adjacent house was also damaged in the fire, but is still standing. Five people living in that house escaped and were not injured, according to the RFA.
“The fire got into the attic, so we had to go up and cut some holes in the roof to get into the attic and put the fire out,” RFA Chief Mike Kytta said. “I would think that it was repairable.”
On Wednesday, the Centralia Police Department received a report that jewelry was stolen from the damaged house.
The Chehalis Fire Department and Centralia Police Department also responded to the fire.