PARENTS, DAUGHTER PERISH IN HOUSE FIRE
November 28, 2000 11:00 pm
5-year-old Katlin Pendleton perished in the fire with her parents Greg and Kathy on Tuesday. (Photo supplied to the Curry Coastal Pilot.).
5-year-old Katlin Pendleton perished in the fire with her parents Greg and Kathy on Tuesday. (Photo supplied to the Curry Coastal Pilot.).

A home fire early Tuesday took the lives of Greg and Kathy Pendleton and their 5-year-old daughter Katlin.

An older daughter, Felisha, 12, escaped with her life after she crawled out of the house through her bedroom window and reported the fire to a neighbor.

Authorities said the tragedy was caused by an unattended candle and made worse by non-working smoke alarms in the house.

These fatalities could have easily been avoided, a visiably shaken Brookings Fire Chief Bill Sharp said Tuesday.

According to Sharp, the fire was caused by a three-wick candle that had been left alone to burn in a wicker basket sitting on a chest-high partition separating the living room from the kitchen. The basket caught fire, as did the Christmas decorations surrounding it, he said.

Pieces of the burning material fell to the floor and caught the living room carpet on fire, he said. The fire then engulfed a table, a couch and the wall, he said.

The fire went out on its own after using all the oxygen in the room, he said.

Witnesses described seeing a candle burning late into the night, he said.

The parents were alerted to the fire at some point, but Sharp said he didnt know when.

The surviving daughter later told investigators that she heard her mother calling for the baby in the middle of the night. She opened her bedroom door to respond to her mom, but closed it immediately because of the heat and smoke in the hallway.

The girl then picked up a chair in her bedroom, broke the window and jumped out.

By breaking the window and going out she saved her life, Sharp said.

The Brookings 911 operator received a call at 1:16 a.m. from a woman living near 221 Alder Street.

She reported that Felisha had ran to her house and told her the house was on fire and the rest of the family might still be inside.

Brookings police and fire units were immediately dispatched and were joined with units from Harbor Fire Department and Cal-Ore ambulance.

Police officer Gerry Kessler was first to arrive and attempted to enter the residence but was unable to do so due to the thick smoke.

Sharp and other firefighters arrived soon after and quickly brought the fire under control.

Firefighters found the mother inside Katlins bedroom. Both were dead. The father was found dead outside the girls bedroom.

Sharp said the three people most likely died from the heat and smoke inhalation. They were removed to the front lawn, where they were given CPR and first aid.

The parents were were pronounced dead at the scene and Katlin was transported to Sutter Coast Hospital, where she later died, Sharp said.

The blaze also took the life of the familys pet dog, cat, two birds and a mouse, he said.

In my 19 years on the job, Ive never had a fatality, and then in one night, there are three Sharp said. This is the worst.

He said the batteries in three of the smoke alarms had been disconnected. The smoke alarm in Katlins room was missing the battery.

We would not be dealing with three fatalities if the smoke alarms had been in working order, Sharp said.

He said the tragedy shows families that they need to have a plan when fire breaks out. Do the kids know how to get out, where to go, he asked

Sharp said the fire did not cause major structural damage.

Most of the damage was superficial, caused by smoke and heat.

Because people died in the blaze, Sharp and Brookings Police Detective John Bishop started an investigation of the fire as required by law. To help in the investigation, they called in an Oregon Fire Marshall officer from Coos Bay and Officer Ryan Fields of the Oregon State Police Fire and Arson Division.

The Curry County Medical Examiner and District Attorney were notified.

At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, investigators released a statement saying the candle being burned was the type that was made for decoration, not to be used as a traditional lighted candle.

The other issue is that all but one of the smoke detectors in the residence were inoperable.

Investigators said the fire created a lot of heavy smoke and heat possibly 400 to 1500 degrees throughout the residence.

With all of the oxygen depleted and the toxic fumes from the fire, it was impossible for the occupants to breathe, they said. The reason Felisha survived, the said, is because she did not go into the main section of the residence, but broke out the window in her bedroom and escaped to call 911.

The Pendletons were owners and operators of Dick and Caseys Gourmet Seafoods, having purchased the business in 1999 from Gregs parents, Dick and Nancy Pendleton, of Harbor.

Felisha is currently staying with her grandparents home in Harbor, where family members have gathered.