LONGVIEW, Wash. (KOIN) — A 3-year-old boy died and his father was critically burned when fire swept through a travel trailer in Longview late Thursday night.
The family of 4, who had recently moved from California to Oregon, was living in the travel trailer behind 963 17th Avenue. The trailer, which was plugged into the residence for electricity, was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived around 11:25 p.m.
“It was just so horrible.”
— Jeremiah Neunecker
An emotional group of people told the first responders there was a young child trapped inside.
The fire was near the front door and blocked the family’s primary escape route. The husband, wife and daughter were able to escape through a front window, but the boy — who family members said was named Robert — could not get out. A total of 5 people were hospitalized.
Brother-in-law Jeremiah Neunecker said he was on his front porch when he heard commotion and breaking glass. He rushed over, saw the flames and said he broke the windows on the front of the trailer.
“I pulled the wife and the husband and daughter out the window the best I could, and then I tried to get the little boy and I busted out all the windows trying to get to him and I couldn’t find him,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I was freaking out. I just couldn’t get to him.”
“We didn’t realize that we had left him behind,” said Cassandra Charles, who is the sister of the injured father
Neunecker said the boy’s father broke through the door with a cinder block trying to reach the 3-year-old.
“But it was just so much fire. I busted the window out and reached through and I tried to unlock the door,” he said. “I think that’s when I really burned my hand.”
He tried again and again but the smoke and flames took his vision and made it impossible to breathe.
“It was just so horrible,” he said.
Neighbor Dave Cooper also rushed over to help but said it was too hot and smoky.
“We grabbed a blanket and threw the blanket over and tried to go in with the wet blanket,” Cooper said. That didn’t work.
Five people required treatment at a hospital — the husband, wife and their 2-year-old daughter, their grandmother plus a neighbor. Four people were taken to PeaceHealth St Johns Medical Center in Longview, while the boy’s father was transferred to Legacy Emmanuel’s Burn Center.
Family members set up a GoFundMe account to help them through. Cassandra Charles, said the family had been in Oregon about 3 weeks and her brother was “trying to find a position at an old job.”
The cause of the fire, which also spread to a nearby vehicle, has not yet been determined and the names of the victims have not been released at this time.
Troy Buzalsky with Longview Police and Fire said it did not appear there were any working smoke alarms inside the trailer.
“You know, a $10 smoke alarm that sounded last night might have made the difference,” he said.
KOIN 6 News will have more information as it develops.