OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) — An infant and toddler were killed in a house fire Tuesday morning, while their parents escaped after jumping out a second-story window, officials said.
The children — Raven Umphress, 2, and Aiden Umphress, 11 months — were found dead in their upstairs bedroom, said Ottumwa Fire Chief Steve O'Connor.
Officials said heavy fire damage prevented firefighters from reaching the second floor, but that the children were likely dead already from smoke inhalation.
“The carbon monoxide causes them to go into a deeper sleep,” said Deputy Fire Chief Mike Jones. “In these cases, victims die from smoke, not fire.”
The parents — Shawn and America Umphress — jumped to safety and were taken to Ottumwa Regional Health Center with undisclosed injuries, O'Connor said. A relative of the family told the Ottumwa Courier that the father was burned trying to rescue the children.
Officials are investigating the cause of the fire, which was reported at about 6:30 a.m. and had already engulfed the house when firefighters arrived.
O'Connor called the house a “death trap” for rescuers, and maintained the children would not have survived even if firefighters had reached the bedroom.
“When we got on scene, the floors had already burned through and the front stairs had already burned away,” he said.
“When you go in and you encounter holes in the floor, your structural integrity is basically gone.”
The deaths raised to nine the number of Iowans killed in fires in the first six weeks of 2008. That is up from one fire death in the first six weeks of 2007, officials with the state Department of Public Safety said in a news release.
“While there is not one single factor to point to regarding this increase, these tragic incidents should serve as a stark reminder for Iowans to develop a fire safety plan,” said state Fire Marshal Jim Kenkel.