Firefighter battling a wildfire in Washington state near the Canadian border lost his wife and three children in an early-morning blaze that destroyed their new home.
The family’s single-wide trailer was almost completely consumed when firefighters and sheriff’s deputies responded to the Green Acres Mobile Home Park in Benton City, Washington, just before 1 a.m. on August 27.
“There was really nothing we could do,” Ron Duncan, chief of Benton County Fire Protection District 2.
The radiant heat from the fire was so intense that a nearby trailer also caught fire, but deputies were able to rescue the residents of that home, Duncan said.
Firefighters put out the fire and found the family members’ bodies while searching the trailer.
Marcaria Garcia-Martinez, 32, her daughters Luz Garcia-Martinez, 17, and Michelle Garcia-Martinez, 6, and son Luis Garcia-Martinez, 15, died from asphyxia due to smoke inhalation, Benton County Coroner William Leach told CNN in an email.
He said the family had just moved into the trailer on the day of the fire.
“It was their first night there,” he said.
Raul Garcia-Santos, Garcia-Martinez’s husband and the children’s father, is a wildland firefighter and was about four hours away fighting the Palmer Fire, which emergency officials say burned about 17,988 acres in north-central Washington.
Although Benton County Fire Protection has programs that provide free smoke detectors, Duncan said the Garcia-Martinez trailer was not equipped with them.
“It’s a very sad case and it reiterates the fact that smoke detectors save lives,” he said.
Fire investigators determined that the fire was caused by an overloaded electrical circuit.