1 adult, 3 children dead after mobile home fire in Oceanway

By Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
Adrienne Moore, Weekend anchor, reporter, amoore@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:29:36 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 17 2014 11:40:00 PM EDT

Flames tear through an Oceanway home, killing four members of a family: a woman, and three of her grandchildren.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

An adult and four children were pulled from a mobile home fire at 12719 Palmetto Street in the Oceanway area Tuesday night, according to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

The adult and three of the children died. One child, who is in stable condition, was rescued by a 13-year-old boy who saw the fire when he was riding his bike.

JFRD investigators identified the adult as the children's grandmother, but they did not release her name. The children who died are 4-year-old Richard Fowler, 2-year-old Rachel Fowler and 10-month-old Janet Fowler. The surviving child, 6-year-old Hattie Fowler, is at Baptist Hospital.

JFRD investigators said the children's parents, Richard and Jennifer Fowler, are incarcerated.

Richard Fowler, 54, was arrested Saturday on charges of child neglect, possession of a controlled substance and resisting an officer without violence. His bond was set at $17,500.

Jennifer Fowler, 31, has been in jail since March 13, when she was arrested for violating her probation. Her previous charges include making a false report to law enforcement in December 2013, domestic battery in September 2013 and disorderly intoxication, public disturbance and criminal mischief in August 2012.

The parents were told of the fire tragedy by jail staff Tuesday night.

The four children were being cared for by their grandparents in the parents' mobile home, investigators said. The grandfather was not at the mobile home at the time of the fire.

“This is a tragic case in all manner, but the community really stepped up and tried to do the best they could do," JFRD Chief Martin Senterfitt said. "There's tragedy and there's heroics involved.”

The 13-year-old boy who saved Hattie Fowler from the flames was Robert Pritchard.

“All I seen was a flame through the window," Pritchard said. "I went in the house, and I grabbed a little girl and then I went and got my dad, and my dad tried to help. I just didn't want the little kid to burn up.”

Robert Pritchard Pritchard said he would have tried to save more people, but firefighters said this fire spread so quickly it was a miracle Pritchard was even able to get in at all.

"It was just big old flames," said Pritchard (pictured). "Right when I walked out, the whole house just caught on fire. I couldn't go back in."

Senterfitt said he's concerned about the emotional trauma his firefighters went through after responding to the horrific fire.

With so many kids being pulled from the fire, many of these firefighters who are parents themselves, along with neighbors in Oceanway, are struggling.

"There was no way I could get in," Jason Beraway said. "All you could hear was screaming; it was just horrible."

Beraway said he checked a few doors where the handles were hot and tried to get in to help the people trapped inside, but the flames were just too intense.

“It was pretty hot, so I went ahead and kicked a door with my foot, so as I kicked the door open, flames came shooting out,” Beraway said. "I know I heard the word help. 'Help me' at least three or four times. I don't believe I heard any kids screaming, but she (the grandmother) was screaming at the top of her lungs. You can't really explain, just a gut feeling you don't want to feel, someone screaming for help, knowing you can't help them."

He said he ran to the front door, but it was too late.

JFRD Chief Martin Senterfitt "The concern we have now is investigation," Senterfitt said. "And more of the professional concern of mine is the well-being of the firefighters who responded. It was a very heartfelt event, so now we're going to make sure our firefighters psychologically are ready to deal with the stress involved.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the fire, but investigators said at this time they do not suspect foul play.

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