St. Paul house fire: Fire crews provide details on fatal blaze

At a candlelight vigil inside the Vang family’s St. Paul school, community members embraced a devastated family on Saturday. Pacheng Vang’s life is forever changed after an early morning house fire killed four of his young children, just days into the new year.

The fire started around 1:31 a.m. in a home on the 1200 block of Arkwright Street North. A mom and six young children were inside the home when the blaze started. The home had working smoke detectors, but investigators say the family’s escape would've led through a burning room. Now a preliminary report lists the cause of the fire as "accidental," likely ignited by an unattended living room candle.

Before Saturday’s vigil, St. Paul firefighters spoke publicly about the fire for the first time, saying the fire was not large. But, fire officials say there were limited routes to safety, stating that the victims would have had to go through the room with the fire to escape. 

Firefighter Mason Conlin is credited with carrying two children out of the burning home, while Jake Ryks was able to rescue three children of the seven family members trapped inside their smoke-filled home on Arkwright Street North. Ryks had to carry one of the children about a block and a half, where he performed lifesaving measures on the child until relief came and took over. 

"I chose to forgo standard practice and I entered the house alone," Ryks said.

 Even with 63 first responders at the scene, once outside, first responders said it was a taxing situation that overran medics.

"We didn’t have enough stretcher space, so I decided to carry one victim into the hospital," St. Paul Fire Captain Rob Watson said. "Our total interaction time was nine minutes from the time we arrived on scene to the time we arrived at Regions [Hospital] … it was fairly scary because we [had] a young child in a pretty rough spot."

Three surviving family members remain hospitalized. A family spokesperson says the mother and her oldest son are unconscious, while her youngest daughter is awake and has begun eating.

GoFundMe set up for the family has raised more than $470,000.

Four children have died after a devastating house fire in St. Paul. (FOX 9)