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Three children killed in Centralia house fire: ‘Our hearts go out to the family’

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A neighbor, Lori Mohney, captured this image of the deadly house fire in Centralia.

A neighbor, Lori Mohney, captured this image of the deadly house fire in Centralia.

CENTRALIA, Wash. -- A house fire in Centralia killed three children Friday morning after their mother wasn't able to rescue them as they slept upstairs, authorities said.

Police say the children's mother was in a downstairs bedroom. She woke up around 12:45 a.m. to smoke and could not get to her kids who were upstairs. She ran outside and called 911 for help.

Officers arrived before firefighters to the home in the 900 block of Ham Hill Rd. One of the officers jumped up onto a car in the driveway, onto the roof and busted out a window trying to get to the kids. That officer was injured in the process and could not get to them.

"A truly heroic effort on part of all 3 and everybody that was there," said Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen in an afternoon news conference. "Our hearts go out to the family."

Family and neighbors at the scene say they are devastated.

"[The mother] was obviously grief-stricken and in shock," said police Sgt. Carl Buster. "It's the hardest grief to bear to lose a child and to lose all your children at once, I couldn't imagine."

Authorities say there's no reason to suspect arson. Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire but say they have confirmed it started just inside the front door.

Colleagues say a Washington state lobbyist is the father of three children.

Both houses of the Legislature held moments of silence for Brad Tower's family, and a rabbi and pastor mentioned them in morning prayers. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and several lawmakers addressed the tragedy, with Owen describing it as "the greatest pain a person could ever have."

Tower has been a lobbyist in Washington since 2000. He has represented the state's community bankers, its dental association and the Washington Christmas Tree Growers.

Authorities have not officially released the victims' identities.

Local officials, politicians and the community shared words of support.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

900 Ham Hill Rd, Centralia, WA