CENTRALIA, Wash. -- The tragic loss of three children in a house fire is affecting everyone in Centralia -- from the people who know the family, to neighbors and the firefighters and police who were first on the scene early Friday morning.
All of them are trying to understand and cope with what happened.
“It’s just a sad day all around for everybody,” said Jay Pannette, a neighbor.
This community is mourning the death of three children.
While their mother has asked that the children not be identified, we know from the Centralia Public School’s superintendent that the children were in the second, fourth and sixth grades.
“I could not imagine, you know, having this happen to your own kids. I mean, I just can’t. No one can even feel what they’re going through,” added Pannette.
The flames were so intense that first-responders couldn’t get to the third floor where the children were.
Centralia police officer Phillip Weismiller, who is soon going to be a father, jumped onto a car in the driveway, then onto the roof with two others.
The pressure of the fire blew out the window and cut Weismiller’s right hand.
“Truly a heroic effort on part of all three, as well as everybody who was there,” Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen said.
All first-responders who came out to the home continue to struggle with what happened.
“It’s very difficult,” said Riverside Fire Authority Chief Michael Kytta, as he fought back tears during a press conference on Friday.
The tragedy is also being felt in the state Capitol, where colleagues said the children’s father is a longtime lobbyist.
Both chambers of the Legislature held moments of silence for Brad Tower’s family
“Our hearts especially are going out to the family of Brad Tower, after their loss of their boys, we pray together,” said a pastor on the Senate floor.
A rabbi and pastor mentioned them in morning prayers, and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and several lawmakers addressed the tragedy.
Centralia School District Superintendent Mark Davalos said this is impacting all students.
“This is a huge loss, it’s always a tragedy when we lose kids. We love all of our kids,” said Davalos.
They’ve brought in extra teacher counselors and created a safe room, where children can express their feelings.
On Friday afternoon, the Centralia School District confirmed two of the children attended Washington Elementary School and one attended Edison Elementary School.
Outside Washington Elementary School, flags were lowered to half-staff in honor of the three children who died in the fire.
There’s a candlelight vigil planned for Saturday night at Washington Park at Pearl and Main in downtown Centralia at 8 p.m. The vigil is being sponsored by friends of the victims and their family.
A fund has been set up at Security State Bank in Centralia for those who want to donate to the family.