FLORA, Ind. – An early-morning house fire in central Indiana killed four young sisters and sent their mother and two would-be rescuers to the hospital, authorities said Monday.
The fire at the home in Flora was called in at around 3:40 a.m., said Todd Trent, an assistant chief of the local fire department.
A Flora police officer and Carroll County sheriff's deputy who were the first to arrive entered the home but were driven back by the heat and smoke and weren't able to reach the children in their second-floor bedrooms, he said.
Firefighters who arrived a few minutes later were able to retrieve the children but couldn't revive them, Trent said. He said all four likely died of smoke inhalation. Flora Police Chief Paul Redmon said the girls ranged in age from preschool to the sixth grade, WLFI-TV reported.
The children's mother was on the first floor and survived. Trent said she suffered from smoke inhalation and may have had other injuries, and that she was airlifted to a hospital in Indianapolis, about 60 miles south. Her condition was unknown.
Angela Francis, an emergency medical technician who lives next door the home, said she was awakened early Monday by the mother's screams.
"I heard the mom outside yelling and screaming," Francis told the (Lafayette) Journal & Courier. "By the time I got over there, I was helping one of the ambulances with one of the officers."
The officer, Josh Disinger, and deputy, Drew Yoder, were also injured and were hospitalized, he said.
Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby told WLFI-TV that Yoder was flown by helicopter to a hospital burn unit in Fort Wayne, about 80 miles away, and that the next 48 to 72 hours will be crucial to his recovery.
Disinger, meanwhile, was in stable condition at a Lafayette hospital, the station reported.
The cause of the fire was being investigated. Trent said it had shaken the town of about 3,000 people.
"For a small community, this is quite a tragedy. All four children attended the local school, you have all the classmates who knew them and the mother worked here in town," he said.