by Casey Grove – Alaska Public Media
Five children died in a fire that gutted a trailer home in Butte this morning off the Old Glenn Highway near Palmer, according to Alaska State Troopers
But troopers couldn’t — or wouldn’t — say what caused the blaze or who was responsible for the five girls who died. The girls ranged in age from three to 12.
Somber fire investigators combed through debris inside the blackened trailer off Wickham Drive on Thursday.
A neighbor had called 911 to report the fire a little before 7 a.m. Thursday. Another neighbor, who did not want to be recorded in an interview, would only say the five girls who died were “good kids,” as he stared at the charred home past the yellow fire line tape.
Firefighters from nearby Butte Fire Department, as well as Palmer Fire and Rescue, responded.
Troopers and the state fire marshal are still investigating what sparked the fire and whether there were any other factors that may have contributed to the girls’ deaths. The investigators have not released the victims’ names, nor have they said whether they were members of the same family or whether an adult was present or involved in any way.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said early indications are that the girls died in the fire. But she says there won’t be a final determination on what caused their death until troopers have had time to investigate.
“It is a tragedy no matter how you look at it,” Peters said. “We don’t know at this point if there were other factors involved in their death, but that’s something we’re going to look into.”
Peters said that will take time.
“Whenever you have a fire, things are always very complicated, I mean, things get burned up, things get scattered,” Peters said. “There are people who fight the fire, that’s what they do, so there’s water. It’s a really long drawn out process.”
As Peters spoke, state medical examiners were removing the girls’ remains from the trailer, putting them in body bags and preparing to drive them to Anchorage. She said that’s where they’ll undergo autopsies.
Investigators have been in touch with family members and are conducting interviews. But Peters said it is too soon to identify the girls publicly until troopers are completely sure of their identities.
Peters said that, to her knowledge, nobody from the home was treated for injuries and that she could not comment on whether anyone besides the girls was present at the time of the fire.