RICHLAND, WA - NBC Right Now was the first team on the scene to report an early morning residential fire in Richland Saturday that could not be tamed. The fire spread in ways some Richland fire fighters say they have never seen in their decades of working.
Crews initially started fighting it from within but it was deemed so dangerous that they had to pull all of their men out.
"It's hard," explained neighbor Brooke Christ. "It's hard just being a neighbor and knowing them and knowing this is what they're going through."
"They've been in this home for well over 30 years," said Jim Jensen. Jensen is a long time friend to Jack and Delores Milliorn, the retired Hanford workers who have lost just about everything. They were not home for the fire. They were visiting with family in Vancouver for the holiday.
The fire started in the basement and crews thought they had it just about contained when the flames suddenly started to explode out of the home.
"It was very unexpected," explained Operations Battalion Chief Tom Huntington of Richland Fire. "We were glad that we didn't have crews inside at that point. At that point though the fire extended through the entire house and there was just no way to do a safe interior operation."
So the crews were pulled out left to stand and watch as the house was consumed after the flames either hit an oxygen pocket or caught on to gas from the basement. The only thing left was to contain the fire as the entire first floor collapsed and caved in.
"They're an older couple and the guy is not doing very good, so it's kind of sad to watch," said Christ.
For hours crews tried to contain flames from outside the home. The flames did not die down until around 10:30 am, over four hours after it all first started. No one was injured in the fire, but the Milliorns had four cats that were at home. Fire crews believe the cats didn't make it out.
While the homeowners rushed back to the Tri-Cities to see what they could salvage, friends and neighbors looked on as the house crumbled and crews began to bulldoze the structure.
"God bless you Jack and Delores and we'll be there for you whatever you need," said Jensen.
"There's nothing left," said Christ. "So sorry for you guys. I know the lady's upset because she lost her cats and they're like her kids. I'm sorry that you guys have to go through this and we're here for you guys for whatever you need."
The volunteer fire chaplain told us that Red Cross would be helping the Milliorns in any way they can to get them back on their feet and to recover from this great loss.