Lorton mother, two children die in fire

A townhome fire killed three on Hagel Circle in Lorton, Va.
A townhome fire killed three on Hagel Circle in Lorton, Va. (Wendy Galietta - The Washington Post)
By Tom Jackman and Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 10:50 PM

As fire started to devastate her townhouse Wednesday morning, a Fairfax County mother of five lowered three of her children from a second-story window to safety, fire officials said. But then the blaze became too intense, and the woman and her two remaining sons were killed.

The three surviving children - a 2-month-old girl and 6- and 8-year-old boys - and a man who lived in the townhouse on Hagel Circle in Lorton were taken to the Burn Center at Washington Hospital Center, where their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

The names of all seven residents of the townhouse, just off Route 1, were not released Wednesday. It took several hours after the fire was reported, at 8:30 a.m., for the flames to be extinguished, and investigators had only begun digging through the ruins, seeking to determine the cause of the blaze.

The young family had not lived in the townhouse for long, but they had made plenty of friends in the neighborhood. And those friends sat, staggered, outside the burned-out home Wednesday afternoon, horrified at the sudden loss of life.

"She just had a baby girl, and I'm having a girl too," said Nancy Alvera, 22, a neighbor whose children played with the victim's children. "I'm in shock. She was a stay-at-home mom who loved her kids and was there for them all the time."

Tom Nguyen, a neighbor who drives a Fairfax County school bus, said three of the children rode his bus to William Halley Elementary School in Fairfax Station. School officials could not confirm that Wednesday.

"I just talked to the mom yesterday, and everything was great," Nguyen said.

Tayyaby Piracha said one of the dead children had stayed with her daily at her in-home day care in the Terrace of Gunston community. "Twenty-four hours before, he was with me," Piracha said. "Now he is no more."

She said the mother, in her 20s, was "a very nice lady" but was "upset sometimes" as she struggled with money and health issues. She was unemployed and searching for a job, Piracha said.

Firefighters arrived from the nearby Lorton station two minutes after the first call, said Dan Schmidt, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Fire Department. The man and three children had already escaped the blaze. Witnesses told fire officials that the woman had lowered the children from an upper floor window to the man.

Then the rescues stopped.

Firefighters used a ladder to enter the second floor of the burning townhouse to find the mother and two children, but it was too late, Schmidt said.

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