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2 young sisters killed, mother burned in Lisbon fire

Jose Leiva | Sun Journal
Jose Leiva | Sun Journal
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a residence on Summer Street in Lisbon Falls, Maine, Friday morning, March 4, 2011. The state fire marshal's office said two sisters died in the home when they were trapped in a bedroom. Their mother was treated for smoke inhalation and burns that she suffered when she tried to save them.
By Bonnie Washuk, Sun Journal

LISBON, Maine — Two young sisters died early Friday when a fire swept through their 34 Summer St. home, fire officials said.

The victims were Natalie Hogan, 11, and Kelsey Hogan, 6, said Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

The girls’ mother, Lorna Hogan, was being treated at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston for smoke inhalation and burns she suffered trying to rescue her daughters.

Four other children escaped without injury. They were being cared for by grandparents.

Fire marshals said the two girls were trapped in their second-floor bedroom. Lisbon firefighters and a Lisbon police officer entered the burning house and brought the girls out, but emergency personnel could not revive the sisters, McCausland said.

Seven investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were at the scene throughout the day, working to pinpoint the cause. By 8:30 a.m. the flames were out, but smoke was still streaming from the windows of the second floor. Fire marshals and Lisbon firefighters searched the rubble in the afternoon, looking for clues to the cause.

Lisbon Fire Chief P. Sean Galipeau said the family had trouble with frozen pipes Thursday night. “We’re looking into that and also into another avenue.”

The fire was reported around 7:30 a.m. by a passer-by, Galipeau said.

“When we arrived, there was fire blowing out of the windows in the front, [near the girls’ bedroom],” the chief said. “I had two [firefighters] go in and attack the fire through the front door and up the stairs, and two did a vent-entry search, over and through the window.”

The girls’ room was full of “superheated smoke, ready to flash” into flames, Galipeau said. “At that point, everyone had to bail out of the building. We were able to get a line in.” The water line helped knock down the heat, flames and smoke, allowing firefighters to make a second entry and get the girls, Galipeau said.

The children’s mother “made a valiant effort” to rescue her daughters, Galipeau said. “She tried to do what she could to get up the stairs.”

Knowing two children died is heartbreaking, he said. “My guys are having a hard time right now. We did everything right. This is the first fire fatality in Lisbon since 1957.”

The town has a 60-member volunteer fire department, Town Manager Steve Eldridge said. “They’re extremely well-trained. … I can’t say enough about the chief and how well his people are trained and how well they work together.”

Crisis teams will be working with emergency personnel, Eldridge said. “When you lose a child, it stays with you the rest of your life.”

Lisbon’s town office staff were glum, Eldridge said. “It’s quiet here today. This municipal staff will feel it; the community will. It’s tragic.”

As the mother was being cared for, the children’s father, Christopher Hogan, and the grandmother were put in touch with the Red Cross, Galipeau said.

The family’s yellow Labrador retriever was nervously running around the yard, trying several times to get back into the house as firefighters battled the blaze. The dog was chased away from the burning building and eventually was taken in by a neighbor, Galipeau said.

The family lost everything, officials said. The children were home-schooled and the couple had recently divorced. The father wasn’t living at the home.

Galipeau said the house was empty last summer or the summer before and the Hogans hadn’t lived there very long, but neighbors were friendly with the family. “They were known in the neighborhood,” the chief said.

It was the second house fire in Lisbon this week. On Wednesday afternoon, a house on Angel Street received about $50,000 in damage. No one was injured. According to Galipeau, the Angel Street fire was accidentally caused by improper disposal of smoking materials.

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