By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Firefighters and investigators continued their work today, trying to uncover what ignited the blaze that claimed three lives and nearly consumed a two-story home in Winlock.
“We’re out going through the scene today,” Lewis County Fire District 15 Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson said. “Going through the remains of the house.”
The Lewis County coroner yesterday recovered the partial remains of three individuals and has yet to verify their identities or release their names.
Winlock Police Department Chief Terry Williams said he hasn’t confirmed the ages of all the family members involved in Thursday’s early morning morning fire.
The father, whose name has not been released, and his two boys escaped the fire physically uninjured. The mother and two little girls who were right behind him did not.
“I think they’re 3 and 4,” Williams said today.
She had them on her hips or under her arms, carrying them out, Williams said. They were found right where he would have expected them to be, some 10 to 15 feet from the front door.
The family had been asleep, and the father had no ideas what caused the fire, Williams said.
The survivors were in their nighttime apparel, and a life-long Winlock resident has headed up efforts to collect clothing for them, as well as household items.
Brandon Patching said the boys, ages 7 and 9, are average to slim. The father could likely wear large or extra large, he said.
Patching also spearheaded a candlelight vigil last night, held at the site of the world’s largest egg, which the south Lewis County town is known for.
“Being a small town, that’s what we do,” Patching said. “That family needs to know that we’re all there for them.”
Connie Sneed, who became acquainted with the couple at first through the Winlock community Facebook group, early yesterday coordinated with Umpqua Bank in town to set up a donation account.
She’s anxious to get it out of her name, but hasn’t talked directly to the father yet, she said today.
His brother phoned her earlier today – she assumed because the police chief thought they should connect – on the father’s behalf.
“He said he’s very, very appreciative, he’s just barely hanging in there, his brother said; he’s just trying to hang in there, he’s not doing real well,” Sneed said.
Sneed said the father is up north with his family. She said the couple had come to Winlock a year or so ago from Coupeville.
He asked her if she could help get the donated items stored, because he’s going to need them soon, she said.
The brother told her what’s really needed is money, for services and relocating, she said.
“I want him to be able to put her and those babies to rest, and not have to skimp on anything,” Sneed said.
Umpqua Bank continues to accept monetary donations; Mayor Lonnie Dowell said donors can just tell them it is for the fire victims.
Any donations of clothing, or household goods can be taken to the Christian Fellowship in Winlock on Cemetery Road. Also, Patching is happy to continue accept them at his workplace at Aaron’s in the Twin City Town Center in Chehalis, as long as it’s arranged ahead of time with a phone call. He can be reached at 360-740-6060.
Patching and Sneed can also be reached for details via posts on Lewis County Sirens Facebook page.
The fire investigation is being conducted by Sam Patrick, under the direction of Chief Williams.
The chief expected they would continue working into this evening.
Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod indicated this morning his office is working with the family, keeping them informed of their progress of confirming the identities, so the three can be released and laid to rest.
For background, read “Deadly Winlock fire: Sifting though charred rubble” at 3:39 p.m., here