House fire death toll climbs to four

ELKINS – Two more children died Tuesday of injuries suffered in Monday’s house fire on Central Street, and investigators have wrapped up their work at the scene without yet determining a cause for the blaze, officials said.

Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader said a third child succumbed to injuries Tuesday afternoon, and the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office said a fourth passed later in the day. Both were being treated at the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh.

One of the children that died Tuesday was the 2-year-old twin of one of Monday’s fire victims. The other reported fatality Tuesday was an 11-year-old girl.

A 4-year-old also died on the scene Monday. A total of seven people – three adults and four children – were in the Central Street house at the time of the blaze. The three adults still are being treated in Pittsburgh.

Meader said no other information can be released until all family members have been notified.

The blaze started around 4 a.m., officials said. Fire on the stairs and in the living room blocked the main exits of the home, Meader said. He noted that only one smoke detector was found, which did not have batteries.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the incident.

Meader told The Inter-Mountain Tuesday night that investigators at the house “wrapped up this evening, and there has been no determination of cause yet.”

Speaking of the investigation, Meader said, “We know where, but we don’t know why.”

A fundraising event for the family at George Ward Elementary School is planned for Nov. 9. The event is being organized by the employees of Northwest Hardwoods in Dailey, Randolph County Board of Education member Harvey Taylor and Elkins Mayor Van Broughton.

“This is a terrible tragedy that’s happened to this family,” Taylor said. “We’re asking for everyone to get involved and help with this project.”

Taylor said Tuesday that the father of the family, Alan Chamberlain, works at Northwest Hardwoods. Chamberlain’s Facebook page says he is a sticklayer at the Dailey lumberyard.

The Inter-Mountain placed a call to the West Penn Burn Center Tuesday asking about Chamberlain’s condition. The woman who answered the phone said, “The family’s here and they don’t want anything released.”

The children’s classmates had to face the loss of their friends at school Tuesday, and officials made sure qualified professionals were on hand to help the students.

Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Terry George said counselors were available in each of the county’s schools Tuesday – including Third Ward School and Elkins Middle School, where two of the victims attended – for students to talk to about the incident.

George said some students had been talking to counselors about the tragedy. He added that additional counseling personnel were available to each school if needed.

After the death of the fourth child was announced Tuesday evening, George said at least three counselors will be available today at Elkins Middle School, where the girl attended. George said more counselors can be sent to the school if needed to help the students cope with the loss.

Broughton said he is asking the community to keep the victims in their thoughts and prayers.

“I have been meeting with the family off and on the past couple of days, spreading our love and support,” Broughton said Tuesday. “I am talking to them to see what we can do that would serve them best in their time of need.”

– Staff Writer Beth Broschart contributed to this report.