Two people died, one woman escaped and a couple was rescued by quick-thinking neighbors in an early morning house fire in the 700 block of 8th Avenue atop Arnold Hill early Friday morning.
County Coroner Dan Burns confirmed the victims were mother and daughter, ages 54 and 26. Both had been sleeping on the second floor, and one was found on the second floor, the other on the first. Part of the second floor collapsed during the blaze.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
A family member said the 54-year-old woman and her twin daughters were both visiting the elderly homeowners. The family members were in town to help the couple move to Idaho to be closer to their son, neighbors and family said.
“They were there to help her parents move,” the family member said.
Neighbors were alerted to the fire around 5 a.m. by the screams of the woman who escaped from the second floor onto the roof of the porch, where neighbor Tim Tetzlaff spotted her grabbing her knees, screaming and pointing back into the home.
“She was screaming names,” he said.
Tetzlaff said he hollered at her not to return inside the house when he saw her approach another woman he glimpsed at the second story window.
He told her to jump from the roof, and the woman did. He said he tried to catch her and help break her fall. The other woman had turned back into the house as flames engulfed the upper story, he said.
Neighbor Katrina Springer called 911 when she heard a woman screaming.
“She was screaming really loudly,” Springer said. “Terrible screams.”
Springer ran across the street to help the woman as she called for help on her cell phone.
“The whole house was in flames, I met her in the driveway. She was cut up pretty bad,” she said. “She asked me for a blanket, she had blood all over her.”
The flames had fully engulfed the eaves and popping sounds could be heard, Springer said.
Three other neighbors worked quickly to try to rescue the others inside the home, as Mark Hensel grabbed a metal ladder and joined Tetzlaff and David Halstead.
A window on the west side of the home was broken, and they began to pull the elderly couple out. The husband suffers from Parkinson’s disease, several neighbors said.
First the wife emerged and was helped down the ladder, then her husband. At his home higher up the hill, Halstead confirmed he had helped in the early morning rescue. “We got two out, but we couldn’t reach them all,” he said before politely declining to comment further.
The elderly couple was taken to the hospital for examination, as was the woman who escaped the blaze. The couple was treated and released from Grays Harbor Community Hospital emergency department Friday afternoon, while the woman was listed in satisfactory condition, according to the hospital.
Their names were not yet available. Coroner Burns said the names of the two victims could not yet be released.
Aberdeen Fire Department Chief Tom Hubbard praised the heroic efforts of the neighbors and Aberdeen Police officers who arrived shortly before two fire engines arrived on the scene.
The initial rescue quickly turned into an effort to contain the flames as they tore through the house, Hubbard said.
“It’s a tragic day. The neighbors and the Aberdeen Police did an outstanding job,” he said. “It was a tough situation.”
Neighbors Jim Dunn and Cathy Daniels described the elderly wife as “the poodle lady,” who was always seen with her miniature poodles, who may have perished in the fire. “She is a nice lady,” Daniels said. The family had lived there for 10 or 12 years, she thought.
“They are a very close and loving family,” said Donna Hensel, whose husband Mark aided in the rescue effort. The wife was always working in the garden of the historic home, she said.
The front garden was hardly tarnished in the wake of the blaze: perennials, grasses, evergreen, purple and yellow flowers were artfully arranged with copper lights with wicks and gold glass globes. Small mom and pop scarecrow stand next to the front walk.
“It’s a terrible Mother’s Day,” Hensel said. “Our love and prayers go out to the family.”
The neighbors had been planning a barbecue because the couple was moving.
“It will be real silent and sad around here now for awhile,” she said.
By noon, the acrid smell of smoke still hung in the air as firefighters went up and down a ladder to the second floor to recover the victims.
Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson arrived on the scene late in the morning to speak to firefighters. “There is not much you can say. It’s bad enough when you lose a building, but losing lives … that’s all I can say.”
Krystal Rodriguez said she grew up playing with the twins when she was visiting her grandmother, Lea, who is a neighbor.
“It’s heartbreaking. You don’t think it’s ever going to happen to someone close to you, someone you know,” she said.
Daily World writer Brionna Friedrich contributed to this story.