Investigators with the WV SFMO were contacted through the West Virginia Arson Hotline on Saturday, Jan. 12 of confirmed fatalities after a residential fire in the town of Clay. Upon examination of the scene, investigators have ruled the fire to be undetermined in cause but most probably accidental. There were smoke alarms in the home.
“First Lady Cathy Justice and I are absolutely devastated and heartbroken after finding out about this horrific fire Sunday that claimed the lives of four of our beautiful West Virginia children in Clay County,” governor Jim Justice said in a statement. “Please join us as we pray for these young people and their families. It absolutely breaks our hearts that these children also had to endure the hardship of becoming foster children. This is an absolute tragedy.”
The gender and age of each victim will not be released until positive identification can be made by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
“What a devastating tragedy to this family, the community, and this State”, said State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree. “Our sincere condolences go out to this family who mourn during this great loss. We commend the valiant efforts of all involved in this tragic incident; the family, first responders, and others who may have assisted from this community. We stand to support this family and all the first responders to this incident as they work through the pain they may carry from this tragedy and we challenge you to do the same!”
The four children who died in the fire were in the foster care program according to the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). DHHR notes that the initial home study revealed that the foster home had working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors. An in-person visit by a DHHR worker was last made to the foster home in December 2018 and no issues were noted.
“This event has been a truly heartbreaking experience for the Department and all those involved,” said Bill J. Crouch, Cabinet Secretary of DHHR. “At this time, and because there are active investigations by the West Virginia State Police and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, along with pending autopsies, the DHHR is unable to discuss further details. We take the responsibility of caring for foster children seriously. Our continued thoughts are with those touched by this tragedy.”