PHOENIX — 5 children, including 4 siblings, were horrifically killed after a northwestern Arizona house fire broke out over the weekend as the father was out Christmas and grocery shopping for hours, officials said.
Investigators said Tuesday they have yet to determine what started the blaze in Bullhead City, Arizona, which began Saturday evening in the downstairs foyer area of the two-story duplex. Flames and smoke traveled up the only staircase inside the home, preventing the victims from escaping.
Five children died as a result. Police said there were no adults home at the time of the blaze.
According to Bullhead City officials, the man reported to investigators responding to the fire that he was gone for about 2.5 hours.
Lake Havasu City and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Fire investigators are the agencies charged with determining how the fire started. Items of evidentiary value were collected to help determine the cause of the fire. The fire debris analysis will be conducted by ATF chemists and electrical engineers.
Authorities have asked witnesses who have photos or videos of the fire to contact the Bullhead City Police Department.
In a video statement Tuesday, City Mayor Steve D’Amico explained how the tragedy has shaken the close-knit community near the Colorado River and the Nevada border.
“I have seen the flowers, the stuffed animals, and the candles” lining the chainlink fence in front of the home, D’Amico said.
Tragedy in Bullhead City, Arizona:House fire killed 5 children. Here’s what we know
Who were the fire victims?
The names of the five victims were withheld pending official identification by the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office. They included a 4-year-old girl and her three brothers — ages 2, 5, and 13 — and an 11-year-old boy who was a family relative and visiting at the time.
One of the children was a kindergartener at the nearby Desert Valley School, according to Lance Ross, public information officer for the Bullhead City School District.
According to Emily Fromelt, a spokesperson for both the Bullhead City Police Department and Bullhead City Fire District, neighbors attempted rescue efforts and placed an extension ladder in the upstairs bedroom of the duplex structure.
Due to the children’s relation to an employee with the Bullhead City Fire Department, fire investigators from the Lake Havasu City Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms were called in to assist the Bullhead City Police Department with the incident, Fromelt added.
A memorial vigil for the five children was scheduled for Wednesday night at a nearby park while friends of the families have raised more than $11,000 as of Tuesday to help with funeral expenses.
What did emergency response look like?
On Monday evening, Fromelt provided a statement and timeline of emergency response:
- 4:54 p.m.: Dispatch received a call of a structure fire on Anna Circle.
- 4:59 p.m.: Bullhead City Fire Units arrived at the scene.
- Less than a minute later, there was water on the fire, Fromelt said.
- 5:01 p.m.: Water supply was established from the fire hydrant.
- 5:03 p.m.: The main body of the fire was extinguished.
Fromelt said neighbors tried to put out the blaze and even placed an extension ladder to the upstairs bedroom of the duplex before fire units arrived. The fire was put out within less than 10 minutes after they were called, Fromelt confirmed.
Patrick O’Neal told The Associated Press that a dozen men gathered hoses and broke windows to try to get into the burning house when they noticed the smoke.
“We were screaming at the tops of our lungs,” O’Neal said. “We didn’t see nothing. We didn’t hear nothing. There are many guys out here who would have went into that fire if we would have known there was children … We did everything we could.”
Bullhead City Police Chief Robert Trebes said investigators were working to get answers about the cause to “bring some closure and peace to parents and families involved.”
Contributing: Laura Gersony and Lacey Latch The Arizona Republic; The Associated Press
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