Two young children died in an intense house fire this afternoon in Cle Elum despite the rescue efforts of their mother, police and firefighters.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m., Kittitas County firefighters were called to a house on Third Street for a report of a house fire with two children inside, according to the Kittitas County Fire District No. 7.
When the distraught mother was forced to retreat from the fully engulfed home, she told police her two children were still inside.
“About three officers gained entry into the home but were quickly overcome with smoke,” said Richelle Risdon, spokeswoman for the Kittitas fire district. “They tried, but flames were just rolling out the front door and windows when I arrived.”
Neighbor Utahna Owens saw the mother and a man escape the home.
“The mother came out and her back was severely burned. And a guy came out that looked like he’d been in an explosion,” Owens said. “The whole back of the house went up fast and the plume was unbelievable.”
The mother was treated for non-life-threatening burns at Kittitas Valley Healthcare Hospital, Risdon said. Risdon did not know the exact ages of the children but estimated both were under the age of 5.
Fire investigators spent the afternoon and evening in the home attempting to locate a source of the fire, but they hadn’t found one as of 7:30 p.m.
Risdon, who lives in nearby Ronald, said the deaths of the children have added more pain to an already tragic week for the small Cle Elum community. She, herself, is in mourning.
On Wednesday, her son’s 7-year-old friend, Clayton Everley, suffocated in nearby Roslyn when a sand tunnel he’d built collapsed on him. Risdon expects the memorial next Friday for the boy, who was a popular juvenile motocross competitor, to bring a large crowd to Cle Elum Roslyn Elementary School.
On Oct. 15, Risdon lost her own friend, 37-year-old Shawn Tolbert of Cle Elum, in a tragic backhoe accident in Thorp.
Risdon broke down crying as she released more details about the Cle Elum fire to reporters on Friday.
“I lost it for the first time in my professional career right in front of a bunch of cameras,” Risdon said. “It’s been a rough couple of days in this town, and this is just adding to it.”
Several Cle Elum residents have begun changing their social-media profile pictures to a black ribbon to mourn their recent losses and to try to pull together for support.
“This community is pretty incredible and when these things happen, people rally together like no other place I’ve ever lived,” Risdon said.