Kitsap County fire have not determined what caused a fire that roared through the wood-frame home over the weekend, killing two young children, their father and his mother.
King 5 interviewed Donald Simpson, described as the survivor of the fire, on Sunday. Simpson said that he was in bed with his wife, Vili, when the fire broke out early Saturday. Also staying at the house for the weekend were Simpson’s son, Merle, and Merle’s children, Madison, 2, and Collin, 1, according to King 5.
Officials have not formally identified the victims pending examination by the medical examiner, however devastated neighbors described a close-knit clan always willing to share a smile or lend a hand.
The survivor was taken to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton and by late Saturday had been released.
Neighbors said they woke Saturday to a commotion and then the yells and screams of the man, who was trying to douse the roaring flames with a neighbor’s garden hose.
“The heat was too great to use the hose,” longtime neighbor John Spillinger told the Kitsap Sun.
“He kept saying, ‘They’re trapped, they’re trapped. I couldn’t get them out.’ ”
Another neighbor, Robert McCarthy, said he was told that the man stood beneath the second-story window yelling at his son to throw the children to him.
“It’s absolutely devastating,” said McCarthy. “They were very nice, very good people who loved their grandchildren.”
In his interview with King 5, Simpson said, “I jumped out of bed, yelling at my wife, told her, ‘Vili. Let’s go. Get out. The house is on fire.’ I thought she was right behind me. I went to find a path, see if the fire was blocking our exit and I went down the stairs. The smoke was heavy. Looked upstairs, yelled at my son. I said, ‘Come on.’ He said, ‘I can’t. I can’t.’”
The fire resulted in a two-alarm response from Kitsap County Fire Department, which has been joined in the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and the Kitsap County fire marshal.
The fire was so intense when the first engines arrived on the scene that firefighters ultimately concentrated on not letting it spread to adjacent buildings.
The fire was reported just before 4 a.m. Saturday. By the time it was extinguished three hours later, it had gutted the home and burned so hot that it charred a child’s wooden swing and playset in the backyard. A contractor had to be called in to shore up the smoldering structure so investigators could get inside.
Saturday afternoon, the bodies of the man, in his 30s, and his two children — an infant boy and a toddler girl — were found together in an upstairs bedroom.
The body of the woman, in her 60s, was found in an adjacent bedroom, according to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office.
Bill Zimmermann, another neighbor, said the grandmother who perished was a fantastic cook who was always feeding people in the neighborhood. She had delivered “a whole tray of lumpia” to him and his wife just days ago, he said.
They “were just great people, always smiling, always laughing,” Zimmermann said.
He was among the first to call 911 when he woke early Saturday and saw the flames “shooting through the roof.”
“I was sad I couldn’t help,” Zimmermann said. “I heard there were people in there but I couldn’t get inside.”
“They were the sweetest family,” said Lena Grilli, a young person who lives right next door. The older man “was always helping us; he fixed our heater and she always helped me with the yard.”
The News Tribune contributed to this report.