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Monday, December 9, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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2 Children Die In Fire At Martha Lake Home -- Father Burned In Rescue Try

MARTHA LAKE, Snohomish County - Two children died and their father was badly burned in an explosive, wind-blown fire early today that destroyed a house west of Mill Creek.

Bill Butler was in serious condition this morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with burns to his back and hands suffered while attempting to save his children.

Phillip, 8, and Sarah, 3 1/2, died in the fire. The children's mother, Phyllis Butler, and their 6-year-old brother, Isaac, were treated for smoke inhalation and released.

Two families occupied the house at 15651 Larch Way N. on Martha Lake. The fire broke out about 1:45 a.m. in the upstairs area, where the Butlers lived, said acting Lt. Brian Shouse of the Lynnwood Fire Department.

The fire apparently started in the Butlers' living room, said Fire Marshal Tom Foster of Snohomish County Fire District 1. The family's Christmas tree was in that room, but investigators have not determined if that was related to the fire, he said.

The Butlers rented the lower half of their home to a family of four.

The downstairs family and Phyllis, Bill and Isaac Butler escaped unharmed, then Bill Butler returned for the other two children, said Snohomish County Sheriff's spokesman Elliott Woodall.

The man who lived downstairs then went into the burning house to find Butler and dragged him onto an outside deck.

Sheriff's Deputy Susanna Johnson and Hillcrest Security officers Bill Lapo and Chuck Schandel arrived before firefighters and helped rescue Butler from the house, Woodall said.

A total of 28 firefighters from Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds, Lynnwood and Fire Districts 1 and 7 helped fight the two-alarm blaze.

"Fire was just coming out of every part of the structure when we arrived," said Battalion Chief Jim Schoentrup of Fire District 1.

Eva and Dave Peterson, friends of the Butlers, were awakened by explosions. They live across the lake, and their children play together and car-pool to school with the Butler children.

"The whole house was on fire, and it lit up the sky," said Eva Peterson. "We were just praying it wasn't them. It's just so tragic. I feel so terrible for (Phyllis)."

Treated for smoke inhalation were Lapo, Johnson, the man who lived downstairs and a volunteer firefighter.

When Johnson arrived, she found Phyllis Butler running down the road carrying Isaac. She told Johnson that people were still in the house, Woodall said.

Johnson was joined by Lapo, who came to help when he saw flames, and the two of them searched for a way inside the house, Woodall said. They finally found Bill Butler on the deck.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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