SEATTLE (AP) — Three children of a Washington state lobbyist died in a house fire early Friday after thick smoke and flames blocked their mother from reaching the upstairs bedrooms where they were sleeping, authorities said.
The woman was on the lower floor of the split-level home in the city of Centralia, about 90 miles south of Seattle, when the fire woke her, police Sgt. Carl Buster said. She raced to the landing of the stairs heading to the second floor.
"She just said it was impossible to get through the smoke and flames that was between her and her kids," Buster said.
A police officer, Phillip Weismiller, 36, climbed onto the roof and tried to break a window to save the children. He seriously injured his hand and was taken to a hospital, Buster said.
The mother escaped and had not reported any injuries.
No one else was in the house, and there were no indications so far of foul play, Buster said. Investigators did not know the cause of the blaze but said it started just inside the front door.
Authorities did not immediately identify the family, but colleagues of Brad Tower, a lobbyist in the state capital since 2000, said he is the father of the children.
The news led to an outpouring of support, with both houses of the Legislature holding moments of silence and praying for the family. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and several lawmakers addressed the tragedy.
"It's a very difficult time," Owen said before asking the Senate to stand for a moment of silence. "One of our family members is in the greatest pain a person could ever have."
Tower's colleagues wrote in an email Friday that the family requested privacy.
"I can't even guess what the sorrow is for a loss times three," Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said. "My thoughts, my prayers to the entire Tower family goes out today."
Tower has represented the state's community bankers, its dental association and the Washington Christmas Tree Growers.
Associated Press reporters Rachel La Corte and Walker Orenstein contributed from Olympia.