Firefighters and investigators search for evidence of the cause of an early morning fire on NE First St. in Winlock, as well as the remains of three victims believed to have been unable to escape the blaze. Later that afternoon, authorities confirmed the three victims, a mother and two daughters, had been located, though official identification is still pending from the Lewis County Coroner's Office.
The remains of three victims have been recovered from the scene of a residential fire in Winlock as investigators continue to search for a cause of the blaze.
According to the Winlock Police Department, who are heading up the investigation, the bodies of a woman and her two daughters were recovered this afternoon after their house at 807 NE First St. suddenly caught fire at around 2:30 a.m. The remains are currently in the custody of the Lewis County Coroner's Office, who are expected to confirm their identities and causes of death in the coming days.
Three survivors, a man and two male children, remain in the care of the American Red Cross after they escaped shortly after the fire began, reportedly suffering only minor injuries.
The exact cause of the fire remains unknown at this time, though authorities have confirmed a loud explosion was heard and felt by several witnesses prior to the blaze. While the residence did have access to natural gas utilities, it is yet unknown if such a factor contributed to the fire, though private investigators hired by Puget Sound Energy were on scene to assist in determining or ruling out such a cause.
A candlelight vigil to remember the victims has been scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at Vern Zander Memorial Park (the location of The World's Largest Egg) in Downtown Winlock. Monetary donations may also be contributed to an account set up for the victims at any Umpqua Bank branch, while clothing and other items may be dropped off at the Winlock branch of Umpqua Bank, or the Community Fellowship of Winlock church.
Winlock Police Chief Terry Williams (second from left) addresses members of the press as the investigation of the fire continues on Thursday. Reporters from regional newspapers, as well as the major Seattle-based TV stations, were on hand to gather details of the event.
Members of the Washington State Patrol assist in locating the remains of the victims using instruments similar to surveying equipment to document the scene. A number of other agencies, including the Lewis County Sheriff's Office, the Napavine Police Department, the Toledo Police Department, as well as fire districts in Napavine, Winlock, Toledo, Vader and Ryderwood, responded to put out the flames, as well as assist in the investigation.