September 7, 2017 / Mark Thiessen / Associated Press
PALMER, Alaska (AP) - Five children - all believed to be girls between 3 and 12 - died Thursday in a trailer fire in suburban Anchorage, Alaska, authorities said.
The bodies will be sent to the city for autopsies and positive identification. Officials were not releasing much information.
A fire marshal told an Anchorage television station there were complicating factors to the fire.
Asked to elaborate, Alaska Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Peters said, "All fires are complicated. This one is even more complicated" because of the five deaths.
It was not immediately known if the girls were related or if there were adults in the trailer home when the fire erupted.
"There are a lot of unknowns," Peters said. "Essentially all the questions reporters have and people in the community have, we have those too."
Peters said interviews were being conducted, and the fire marshal was working to determine the cause of the fire.
The home is down a dirt lane, off a major road in an undeveloped area about 45 miles southeast of Anchorage.
It's among several other homes in an area called The Butte, accessible by a highway that takes traffic between Anchorage and Palmer.
Fire officials were notified of the blaze just before 7 a.m. The trailer was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived and were told there were five people unaccounted for.
Except for saying that all five bodies were found inside the trailer, Peters didn't have a narrative of what happened.
"You don't have to have kids for this to break your heart," she said.
Autopsies will determine how the girls died - whether it was from the fire, smoke inhalation or some other factor, Peters said.
Ron Alcock, who lives next door, called the victims the "sweetest girls in the world," saying they would play with his children. He dreaded having to tell his daughters what happened.
He said he left for work at 4:30 a.m. and saw lights on in the trailer next door. Though that was unusual, he knew the man living there had just taken a new job.
No other mobile homes on the lane appeared to suffer any fire damage. Yellow police tape at the beginning of the lane kept reporters and onlookers at bay.