Teen killed in Bellingham house fire

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Investigators said a broken smoke detector could have saved a teenage boy who died in a house fire Wednesday morning.

Four people, including two children, escaped the Bellingham home.

Firefighters found flames shooting out every window of Helen Lawrence’s home when they arrived.

"She's still crying, wishing she could have saved him," said her brother, Paul.

Lawrence’s family said she was taking care of a relative’s 10-year-old daughter and another relative’s 25-year-old and 14-year-old sons.

The victim, a teenage boy, came to live with them last month.

See photos from the fatal fire here.

"I just found out that she's been taking in foster kids and people didn't that have a place to go,” said relative Melissa Bergerson.

One bedroom was already on fire when Lawrence and the girl ran outside.

Both sons tried to save the teenage friend.  One fractured his ankle trying to pull the boy out a second story window but he had to jump when he couldn’t reach him.  The other son burned his hands and is at Harborview Medical Center.

"I'm proud of him doing what he did -- running back in there to try and save that one boy,” said Paul Lawrence.

Investigators said the fire was an accident caused by candles left on a bed.

None of the smoke detectors in the home were working.  They have no idea how long the fire was burning and building before the heat and smoke finally woke someone up.

"It's not a criminal act, it's just very, very sad that it could have been prevented,” said Bellingham Fire Marshall Jason Napier.

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