Help for grieving family


Family, friends and neighbors turned out again on Monday and over the weekend to help the grieving extended Irwin family, following the deaths of a mother and daughter and two family dogs in the devastating house fire atop Arnold Hill in Aberdeen Friday.

The fire destroyed the home of Patricia Irwin, 78, and David Irwin, 79. Neighbors rescued them from the early morning fire, but their daughter Kristal Irwin Scott, 54, and granddaughter, Courtney Scott, 26, both visiting from Idaho, died in the two-alarm blaze. The two were there to help the elderly couple, who planned to move to Idaho Tuesday.

Another granddaughter, Brittany Scott Hammer, 30, was also in the home at the time of the fire and was able to jump from the roof.

Another Irwin daughter, Kim, and her daughter, Stephanie Caires of Hawaii, dropped off a thank you letter from the family at The Daily World Monday. The letter praises the heroic efforts of neighbors who helped rescue them as well as Aberdeen police and firefighters from Aberdeen and Hoquiam who battled the blaze. It describes the losses of life as “very, very painful.”

Kristal Irwin Scott attempted to follow her older daughter out onto the roof, but turned back into the flames to try and save Courtney Scott, the family said.

“She would have gone back into that house for anyone,” Kim Irwin said of her sister.

The bodies of Kristal and Courtney Scott were found in the house. “Both died of asphyxia due to inhalation of toxic substances in a house fire,” said County Coroner Dan Burns Monday.

All three women were sleeping upstairs when the fire broke out. The origin and cause is still under investigation.

Hammer, who suffered cuts in the escape, has returned with her family to Idaho where they live in a small rural town, Kim Irwin said.

Her mother and father, who were rescued from their first floor bedroom, were awakened by the barking of Millie and Sophie, their beloved small poodles, Kim Irwin said. Quick-thinking neighbors broke the window and rescued them.

The dogs, who Patricia Irwin walked every day to the reservoir, perished.

The family is very close and rushed to Aberdeen from all over in the aftermath of the fire.

The elder Irwins were slated to move from Aberdeen Tuesday to a “fantastic place,” a senior living condo in Boise, the family said. The opportunity came up quickly, so Idaho family gathered last week to help them make the move, Irwin said.

The couple also lost most of their possessions in the fire, friends and family said.

“It was very, very tragic, one of the most tragic events I have ever seen,” said their neighbor and longtime friend Bonnie McFeely, who started an Irwin Family Fire Contribution Fund at The Bank of Pacific Monday. “You couldn’t meet two nicer people. There isn’t anything they wouldn’t do for you. It is awful something like this has to happen to them. … We are hoping we can help make a difference” in helping them start over, McFeely said.

The Red Cross gave the couple $250 and the Aberdeen Police Guild contributed $200, family and officials said.

Kim Irwin, who works part time at the Elma Post Office and lives in Aberdeen, and Caires remembered family details.

The Irwins are from Cardiff, Wales, and moved to Aberdeen around 2004. Kristal Irwin Scott was “an amazing woman” who helped her children become good students, accomplished musicians and to learn sign language too, they said.

Her daughter, Courtney, who was single and described as outgoing and energetic, was about to take a job in the medical field in New England. “She was so excited,” they said. Kristal Scott was married. They have a son in high school.

Brittany Hammer is married and the couple has three small children. Brittany Hammer has a twin sister, Ashleigh Scott Clayton, 30, who lives in Utah and was not present, Caires said. Initially, there was confusion over whether the other twin was at the home.

Patricia Irwin was unscathed by the exit through a broken window. Husband David, who has Parkinson’s disease, has some scrapes on his legs, family members said.

A celebration of life will be held on Kristal Scott’s 55th birthday a little later this month in Idaho, they said. The Irwins had four children, 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, Kim Irwin said.

Investigation

Aberdeen Police Department detectives Jon Hudson and Jeff Weiss are investigating, along with Assistant Fire Chief Rich Malizia and the Aberdeen Fire Department.

“It’s a real joint thing,” said police Capt. John Green. The Fire Department is lead at the scene, police are also involved due to the deaths.

“The investigation is still preliminary,” Malizia reported Monday. “There was no evidence of a working smoke detector or a carbon monoxide detector, either, at the scene.”

Normally, firefighters hear them if they are present or working, he said.

Neighbors also did not report hearing them, Malizia said. He hasn’t had a chance to interview the Irwins, who are still scheduled to move to Idaho soon, he said.

A propane tank in the driveway of the house which served the kitchen stove and a fireplace insert was shut off immediately by firefighters as the house erupted in flames, Malizia said. The house was apparently heated by a heat pump system.

Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard, Malizia and Public Education Capt. Kelly Niemi have had plans to hold safety talks for property owners, particularly rental property owners in Aberdeen, about keeping smoke and carbon monoxide detectors up to date. Detectors are mandated by state law. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years and batteries should be tested at least twice a year, fire officials have said.

The age of the home had nothing to do with its risk for fire, Malizia said. The house was built in 1914, according to county records.

The key is to “make sure the family has a working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. They make good gifts,” Malizia said. “Father’s Day is right around the corner — birthdays, Christmas, you betcha.”

Contributions can be made to the Irwin Family Fire Contribution Fund at the Bank of Pacific.

Erin Hart, 360-537-3932, ehart@thedailyworld.com. Twitter: @DW_Erin

 

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