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‘A dark day for all of us’: Fire chief says no smoke detectors in Sultan house fire that killed 8-year-old girl

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — First responders drove “between the trees” through white-out conditions and got stuck in snow-filled ditches as they raced to a remote house fire two miles south of Sultan, but it still wasn’t enough to save the life of an 8-year-old girl who was trapped inside.

Snohomish County District 5 Chief Merlin Halverson said it happened around 1:30 a.m. Monday (Jan. 13), when they got a call about a house fire with someone possibly trapped inside.

He said it takes 20 minutes to get to the home on a sunny day in the summer. Responders were dealing with white-out snow and falling trees. The house is on a road that’s never plowed.

Responders drove “between the trees” and through potholes they couldn’t see. They had to stop several times to cut trees down so emergency vehicles could drive through, Halverson said, and two of the responding vehicles got stuck in ditches.

Three adults and two children were home when the fire started. The two children were sleeping in a loft. The adults were able to get out of the house, and the other child, a young boy, was able to escape the loft. It’s unclear whether he jumped or climbed down.

The 8-year-old girl inside didn’t respond when people called for her. That’s when someone placed a ladder outside the window and broke it to get in and grab the child. Her mother drove the child down the road to meet a medic, and both were taken to Harborview Medical Center, where the child later died.

The other adults and the young boy were taken to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett to be treated for burns and other injuries.

Fire engines never made it to the house, Halverson said. They were called off before they could navigate the treacherous roads.

There were no working smoke detectors in the home.

“Smoke detectors, smoke detectors, smoke detectors,” he said. “It’s a dark day for all of us.”

Halverson said firefighters believe the fire was caused by wet clothes hanging near a wood stove.

He encourages people to shut everything off at night, and to make sure wood stoves are properly installed and functioning safely. He said wood stoves tend to get “overworked” with the extreme weather events.

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