St. Paul firefighters provide update on fire that killed 4 children, community rallies around family
Authorities provided an update Saturday morning on the fire that hospitalized a woman and her six children — four of whom have since died.
St. Paul Fire Fighters Local 21 is making a $10,000 donation to the family.
The St. Paul Fire Department said earlier this week that the Jan. 3 fire, which happened at a home on Arkwright Street near Hawthorne Avenue, is believed to have been started by an unattended candle in the home’s living room. However, a final determination on the cause of the blaze hasn’t yet been announced.
The last fire with multiple casualties in the city occurred in 2017 — two people died.
63 first responders assisted at the scene, authorities said. The first EMS rig responded to the scene and brought two of the victims to the hospital within nine minutes.
While there were dozens of responders, only a handful spoke during Saturday’s press conference.
Firefighter Jake Ryks recalls entering the burning home on the morning of Jan. 3, pulling out multiple children.
“At the time, I found the house to be completely zero visibility,” said Ryks. “I found my first pediatric victim, I removed them from home, handed them to the firefighter at the front door and retraced my steps back to that room.”
Ryks says the third victim was found on the upper level of a bunk bed. Ryke walked with the victim about a block and a half where EMS crews were working on prior victims. He says he removed his face piece and began doing CPR.
Meanwhile, Capt. Joel Waters rescued the mother who he said was unconscious in the parents’ room.
“Immediately, as I went to my knee due to the smoke, high smoke conditions, right past the door is where I located the mom,” said Waters.
In support of the family, dozens gathered at American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul Saturday afternoon, where two of the four children who died in the fire attended school.
The principal says the mother was also a staff member.
“So sad to lose those two girls, who loved coloring, loved coming to school in their matching beautiful dresses,” said Principal Julie Hutcheson-Downwind.
The family gave an update on the conditions of the three remaining at the hospital. According to the family, the mother and the six-year-old son are still unconscious. Meanwhile, the three-year-old daughter is now awake and has begun eating.
While it’s still a long road to recovery, family say it’s only with the help of the community that healing seems possible.
“The heart cannot handle such pain. I encourage all community, far and near to show love and compassion for this family,” said Sean Vang.
A GoFundMe is also set up to help the family and has raised around $474,000 as of Saturday evening.