RACINE -- Two young girls were killed, and two young boys were in extremely poor condition following a house fire in Racine early Thursday morning, November 8th. With four young lives trapped inside a burning home, emotions ran high -- even among firefighters. Four collapsed from exhaustion at the scene.
Fire crews responded to the house fire on Linden Avenue shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday. The person calling 911 for help said they could hear children screaming inside the house.
Upon arrival, firefighters found an adult male, who was immediately taken to a waiting MED unit. Fire crews then began searching for the four children. Firefighters were able to get one child out right away, but officials says bars on one of the windows of the room where the children were located hampered efforts to reach the others. A second window was accessible. It took another 12 minutes to reach two more children and five additional minutes to reach the fourth.
Officials say the rescue efforts were significantly impeded by extremely heavy fire and smoke conditions, as well as furniture blocking doorways.
Neighbors who watched firefighters' rescue efforts had difficulty speaking about it later Thursday.
"The house was just in flames, man. I can't talk about it. When I got to see them taking the kids out one-by-one, that took me for a toll right there. They were trying their best to get in there. They were trying whatever they could," neighbor Gary Golden said.
"This was an example of our firefighters going way above and beyond. They would not give up when they were looking for these kids," one fire official told FOX6 News.
Leaders of Racine County's Fire Chiefs' Association say emotions must have run high.
"The fact that it is children and the innocence they have is what really weighs on your mind," Chad Franks said.
Franks says firefighters who were on the scene on Thursday morning will be able to meet with a captain or speak with members of a critical incident stress team.
"That team is there to just be ears and just to listen to anything that sometimes we might keep inside," Franks said.
Officials say it may still be a few days before the shock of what happened wears off, and emotions set in.
"It's sometimes not until you're sleeping at night or until the next day that that tape recorder starts replaying," Alan Babe with the Racine County Fire Chiefs' Association said.
Two Racine police officers were also injured in this incident. One cut his hand on a window and the other inhaled too much smoke. They were treated at the hospital.