EVERETT — Firefighters crawled into a burning Everett apartment on Monday to save a little girl.
Then, they went back for her sister.
“There was fire rolling out on the ceiling above them, and they had to crawl in on their hands and knees through a lot of debris and found one child on the floor in the bedroom and one had apparently fallen behind the bed,” said Dave DeMarco, assistant chief of operations for the Everett Fire Department.
When DeMarco arrived on scene, the girls’ mother was outside, screaming. She told him her toddlers were inside their first-floor unit. He shared the information with the crew from Engine 6, led by fire Capt. Nick Adsero. The rescuers included probationary firefighter Brent Duckworth, who has been with the department less than a year.
The crews “did a great job,” DeMarco said. “It was an amazing thing to see.”
He has been an Everett firefighter for more than two decades.
“The amount of fire coming out of that apartment, all of my years would have suggested that no one could have survived,” he said.
The girls likely had just a few minutes of breathable air left in the room, he said. It appears that the bedroom door was closed, which would have slowed the fire’s path.
On Monday evening, one of the girls was listed in serious condition in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Her sister was in satisfactory condition.
Both were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, and they are expected to survive, according to city officials.
“We’re optimistic right now,” Everett Assistant Fire Marshal Steve Goforth said.
The fire department described the girls as 2 years old, while the hospital said they were 3. Firefighters said they may be twins.
A firefighter also suffered a minor hand injury at the blaze, which was reported just before 1 p.m. at Olin Fields Apartments on Holly Drive.
The girls’ mother wasn’t home at the time, and a relative was babysitting, Goforth said. Everett detectives were investigating where the babysitter was when the fire broke out in the unit. The girls’ older siblings were at school.
A state fire marshal happened to be in the area and saw a column of smoke, Everett Fire Marshal LeRoy McNulty said. The man drove around the complex until he spotted the unit on fire. He helped spread the word, McNulty said.
“It was very lucky,” he said.
A battalion chief from outside the city was the first on scene, followed by two Everett crews, Engine 6 and Engine 7.
The three-alarm fire drew assistance from as far away as Shoreline and Marysville. Minutes earlier, a car fire at an automotive shop had gone to two alarms on Rucker Avenue. The auto fire was quickly extinguished and did not cause structural damage, officials said.
Resources were stretched so thin that crews from Naval Station Everett pitched in to help, McNulty said.
Flames are visible behind the ladder. pic.twitter.com/n69ofaS7U2— Rikki King (@rikkiking) January 29, 2018
Investigators dug through the charred apartment on Holly in search of the fire’s cause. They continued to work into the night. Police were helping to conduct interviews.
“There’s a few things on the table, as far as causes,” Goforth said.
The American Red Cross was assisting those displaced. At least six units were believed to be damaged. The building is part of a 352-unit complex built in 1989, according to Snohomish County property records. Last year, the apartments had an assessed value of about $40 million.
Joe Kedrowski and his family live near where the fire started. They were alerted by their building’s alarms.
“I went on the patio and I just saw flames coming out of the bottom sliding glass door and it just went up,” he said.
He grabbed shoes and a jacket and called to his family, who followed him out the door.
Kedrowski had no idea Monday afternoon when he might be able to return home. “It happened so fast,” he said.
Reporter Scott North contributed to this story.