MILTON-FREEWATER -- Two young children died today in a house fire in Milton-Freewater.
Firefighters from Milton-Freewater Rural Fire Department responded to a blaze in a single-wide mobile home at Locust Trailer Court, 1501 N. Elizabeth St. after a call to 911 came in at 9:30 a.m.
Olivia Wilson, 16 months old, and Eva Wilson, 4 months old, died before they could be rescued from the back bedroom of the home, according to the father of the girls, Hermillo Castillas.
Judy Divens was on her way to Walla Walla on Highway 11 when she spotted the thick, black smoke, she said, tears running down her face. She pulled into the area right behind another driver. The man, whom Divens identified as a corrections officer from his uniform, and she were frantically trying to gain access to the home when Darius Wilson, 13, came running out the door.
"He told us the babies were in there," Divens said.
Darius was home sick from school this morning, Castillas said. He himself was at work in his job as an orchardist for Milton-Freewater grower Sam Lefore.
She lived in the same trailer several years ago, Divens noted, and remembered the layout of the small home. "I know it. I know there's one window in back that you can't get in. It used to be my bedroom."
Her granddaughters are friends with the family's middle-school daughter, she added.
At the time of Divens' arrival, only the back bedroom was on fire, but that quickly changed -- "He tried everything to get in," she said of her co-respondent.
The due tried every rescue tactic they could think of, Divens said. "We tried to rip off the door on the side."
She dialed 911 as the man attempted to turn out an outside hose. The spigot broke in his hand and the two screamed for neighbors to bring water.
No one responded, she said.
When the man was finally able to open a door, flames shot out, blocking any entry, Divens explained, breaking into sobs as smoke continued to roll out of the front of the home from a large, square cut made through the wall. "I feel so bad we couldn't save them."
The flames were quenched when the mother of the children arrived on the scene this morning. As firefighters spoke to her, the woman fell to the street, then got up and began running toward her home. She was restrained several times by emergency responders from going in.
The Umatilla County Sheriff's Office did not identify the mother of the children before press time. The cause of the fire is under investigation but officials are assuming it was accidental, according to Sheriff John Trumbo.
Sheila Hagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.