ELKINS - Two children were killed in an early morning house fire on Central Street in Elkins Monday.
Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader said two of the four children at the residence died in the blaze. The other two children and three adults were initially transported to Davis Memorial Hospital, but eventually flown to the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh for treatment.
Meader said family was still being notified as of press time and no names or ages could be released.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Joey Kittle
An early morning fire on Central Street in Elkins claimed the lives of two children and resulted in the helicopter transport of five injured residents to a Pittsburgh hospital. Emergency personnel from Elkins City Police, Randolph County EMS and the Elkins, Beverly, Leading Creek, Junior and Belington fire departments assisted at the scene. The West Virginia State Fire Marshal is investigating the blaze.
The fire started about 4 a.m., officials said. Fire on the stairs and in the living room blocked the main exits of the home, Meader said. He added that only one smoke detector was found, which did not work.
Interim Elkins Chief of Police S.D. Richards said the investigation into the house fire in the 100 block of Central Street is ongoing, and will be led by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office.
Elkins firefighter Ron Corcoran said the bulk of the fire was "knocked down" within the first 15 minutes after officials were on the scene.
"It took nearly an hour to bring the fire under control," Corcoran said.
Corcoran said those responding to the blaze included the Randolph County EMS, Elkins City Police, the Elkins Fire Department and the Elkins, Beverly, Leading Creek, Junior and Belington fire departments assisted at the scene.
Later Monday morning, Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker said he contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to assist in the investigation of the fire.
"Given the nature of the fire and the fatalities of young children, we wanted to assure the West Virginia Fire Marshal had the help they needed," Parker said. "I do not know if any part of the fire is suspicious - we just wanted to utilize all of the help that was needed."
Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Terry George said the school system is ready to assist with what is needed.
"This is just a terrible tragedy," George said. "We are waiting to see what evolves and what help is needed. We have counselors at two schools on standby and will coordinate help at these schools for family and other students depending on what is deemed necessary."
Gene Purkey, children's service supervisor with Randolph and Pocahontas County Head Start, said his group has grief packets for parents to help students deal with grief.
"We are also available to help assist with other community organizations and make referrals as needed," Purkey said.
In a written statement, Elkins Mayor Van Broughton said the Elkins community suffered a terrible catastrophe.
"A house fire resulted in the loss of life, serious injuries and a total loss of the residents' home and belonging," Broughton said. "I hope you will keep these people, our neighbors, in your thoughts and prayers.
"I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the men and women of the Elkins, Beverly, Belington, Junior and Leading Creek fire departments; Randolph County and other EMS squads; the Elkins Police Department; Davis Memorial Hospital; and life-flight helicopter crews from various agencies for their fast response to the fire," Broughton added.
"While most of the city was still asleep, these selfless public servants were working bravely and tirelessly to save lives and protect neighboring properties. We should all feel grateful that these heroes are looking out for us, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Broughton said he knows many people wonder how they can help.
"If we become aware of any opportunity to make donations to help the victims of the fire, we will publicize it," Broughton said.
Broughton said, in the meantime, one thing people can do is honor the victims of the fire by learning from what happened to them.
"Please, take this event as a reminder to practice good fire safety in your own homes," Broughton said. "Tonight, maybe even today, on your lunch hour, check the batteries in your smoke detectors. Make sure everyone who lives in your home knows at least two escape routes out of every room. If there is someone in your home who might need extra assistance in a fire, make sure your neighbors know."