Pam Rawlins called home after working the late shift at Albertson's in Bountiful Friday, expecting to ask her husband to come pick her up. No one answered, and she immediately knew something was wrong. She asked a friend to drive her home.
Tragedy was waiting.Inside her smoke-filled house, her husband and three children lay dead. South Davis Fire Chief Brent Argyle said the family died as a result of a slow, smoldering fire started by a burning cigarette.
Neighbors said William Bradley, 33, and his children, Bradley Deja, 8, Cami Jean, 5, and Lacey Breann, 3, were "good people."
They said the family moved into the neighborhood 11/2 years ago. Rawlins, a brick mason, had dreamed of renovating the family's two-story Victorian cottage at 80 W. Porter Lane. His neighbors had helped by pitching in on sheetrocking and carpentry.
Argyle said, "The fire started in the family room and utility room area. Apparently, he (Mr. Rawlins) was smoking a cigarette while lying on the couch and dropped it. It smoldered until it burned the couch close to floor."
The fire probably started about 10:45 p.m., spreading poisonous gases and sucking up the home's oxygen supply. Mrs. Rawlins arrived home at 11:30 p.m.
During that time, Rawlins apparently woke up and went to the kitchen, where he put water in a bucket. He dropped the bucket, took three steps, was overcome by fumes and then curled up on a stairway landing. He was found dead there.
"The fire starved the home of oxygen," Argyle said. "It was not conducive to support life in any way, shape or form."
When Mrs. Rawlins arrived, she saw the smoke and flames through a rear window but was unable to enter
through a door. After breaking a window, she ran to the front and entered the home, went upstairs and carried the three children out to the lawn. She then called for help.
"She is really lucky she wasn't a victim," Argyle said.
Firefighters and paramedics, who had just responded to a nearby call, arrived at the scene within minutes, but were unable to revive the victims. They were pronounced dead, apparently from suffocation and smoke inhalation, at Lakeview Hospital.
"I have been in the fire service since 1966. You never get used to this type of thing, especially as you watch personnel try their hardest to breathe life back into those little bodies," Argyle said.
Mrs. Rawlins was transported to the hospital and kept overnight. Neighbors said she is staying with relatives in Centerville.
The community began to rally around Mrs. Rawlins Saturday as news of the tragedy spread. Fellow workers at Albertson's took up donations, and customers left money on her behalf. "It's a shock to all of us," the store manager said. The store will continue to accept donations.
The two-alarm fire caused $40,000 damage mostly from smoke. The fire was extinguished within minutes after about 30 firefighters in two fire engines and eight other emergency vehicles responded.
Argyle said firefighters found a smoke alarm in the home, but it had been disconnected. If it had been working, it might have saved the family by alerting them to danger, he said.