The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
Jul. 4—ROSEBORO — Emotions were high among emergency workers at the scene of a fire that killed two children in Roseboro on Friday morning.
“If we could have gotten here three minutes faster, I don’t think it would have made a difference, unfortunately,” Roseboro Fire Chief Lee Coleman said in an interview at the scene about five hours after the fire started.
Coleman was covered in ash as he stood about 20 yards from what remained of the house and talked about the fire and its impact on him and his fellow firefighters. The fire was reported at 9:16 a.m. by a passing motorist who saw the home at 8821 Roseboro Highway engulfed in flames, he said.
The two 3-year-old children, one of whom lived in the home while the other was visiting, died in the fire that officials say started in the room where they slept. The parents were awake at the opposite end of the home.
By the time the parents were alerted to the fire, the flames were too intense to rescue the children, Coleman said.
One 12-year-old, who was also in the home at the time of the fire, was taken to the hospital with minor injuries sustained while attempting to get to the younger children, a news release from the Sampson County Sheriff’s office said Friday.
The Roseboro Fire Department, located just over two miles from the home, responded to the fire within minutes. Even so, Coleman said, he knew they were too late to save the children by the time they arrived.
“You don’t not try, even though you kind of have that feeling,” Coleman said.
Coleman said that while sometimes firefighters are unsure whether there is a person trapped in a burning building, this time they knew there were two children stuck in the home. He said he was thinking of his own three children when he arrived on the scene.
“When we were pulling the lines and getting everything ready to go in, I was thinking about them,” Coleman said.
According to the news release, a Sampson County Sheriff’s deputy was the first on scene and the first to attempt to rescue the children after the flames were too thick for family members to enter the burning room. According to the release, the home was too engulfed in flames for the deputy to gain entry.
Soon after, firefighters from Roseboro, Clinton, Salemburg, Autryville, Taylor’s Bridge, Beaver Dam and Garland arrived at the scene and began multiple rescue attempts, the release said.
“We knew where the children were, and we knew there were children in there,” Coleman said. “We tried to go in there and we couldn’t because the fire was so bad — so we backed out, tried to go in another way, we finally got in there and knocked the fire down — and I knew when we got in there we weren’t going to find them alive.”
Firefighters continued to put out remnants of the fire about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. Nearby, a small pink and blue bicycle with training wheels sat abandoned in front yard of the destroyed home.
According to Coleman, adrenaline from rescue attempts and efforts to extinguish the flames kept many of the firefighters from feeling the full weight and emotional toll of the incident.
“I’ve got a lot of young people on the department who have never been in anything like this before, so I don’t think its really set in what’s happened yet,” Coleman said. “Once they start seeing it online and in the news, the emotions are going to come out a little bit.”
Coleman said that at least two of the firefighters from his department who were in the home during rescue attempts have never witnessed anything quite like Friday’s fatal fire. He said he planned to call a meeting with his team once they get back to the station to make sure everyone is okay.
The names of the children and their families have not yet been released, and officials are still investigating to determine the cause of the fire, but Coleman said he believes that the fire was accidental.
Crime reporter Jack Boden can be reached at email@example.com.
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