WINLOCK, Wash. (AP) — Investigators have recovered the remains of three people from the debris of a fire that destroyed a home in the southwest Washington community of Winlock early Thursday, a police chief said.
A woman and two girls are believed to have died. A man and two boys got out safely, fire officials said.
Police Chief Terry Williams said the remains recovered Thursday afternoon have been turned over to the Lewis County coroner's office.
Forensic work will be needed to positively identify them, Williams said.
The four children ranged in age from 3 to 9, the chief said.
The man told Williams he thought the other family members were right behind him as he fled the fire.
"He said, 'She wasn't 10 feet behind me, I don't know why she couldn't get out'," the chief recalled. "He got outside and she wasn't there."
Williams did not immediately identify the man.
Winlock Mayor Lonnie Dowell, who lives about 300 yards from the house, was one of the people who called 911 about 2:45 a.m., The Chronicle newspaper reported (http://is.gd/l5PcVj).
He was awakened by a boom.
"I was getting ready to go back to bed, then I noticed an orange glow and called 911," Dowell said.
Neighbor Kayne Garrison said he awoke to multiple explosions and saw the back of his neighbors' home on fire. He, too, called 911 and went to see if he could help.
By the time he got outside, the fire had reached the front of the house. The man and boys were outside and the man was screaming that the girls were inside.
"I'll never forget that scream," Garrison said.
Two firefighters on call at the station were able to respond quickly, but there was no possible way to save anyone inside, Lewis County Fire District 15 Commissioner Stan Hankins said.
About 20 firefighters from Winlock, Toledo, Vader and Napavine battled the fire.
Williams said the home is served by natural gas but he could not confirm whether there were any explosions.
It will be difficult to determine the fire's cause because the house is so badly damaged, Hankins said.
"It's always a tragedy when kids are involved," he said.
Information from: The Chronicle, http://www.chronline.com