SPOKANE, Wash. — A Spokane family found themselves in the right place at the right time when a fire led them to rescue 11 children from an unsafe and unsanitary home.
On Sunday afternoon, the Blackburn family saw smoke from the freeway at an East Central home. They drove by and found black smoke coming from the backyard of the house on 6th Avenue.
“It was bad. It was really bad,” Randall Blackburn said. “We were first ones there. We ran and we were banging on the door to get them out. And we didn't know who was in there."
He said a woman opened the door, and to the Blackburns' surprise--several children came outside.
"At first, it was one, then two, then three, then four and so on until it 11 children had come out of the house,” Randall’s daughter, Alyssa said.
The Blackburn family carried as many children as they could and loaded them into their truck. They turned the heat on blast so the kids could stay warm until more help arrived.
Spokane firefighters put the backyard fire out quickly. Then, the Blackburns told the fire chief something felt off about the children.
“They were all icy cold,” Alyssa said. “They weren't wearing proper winter clothing for the weather. Some of them weren’t even clothed correctly.”
According to the department's report, crews described the inside of the home as a hoarding situation. Garbage, old food and animal feces littered the home. Some firefighters described the children as malnourished and dirty.
“We were all weeping,” Randall said.
Even Alyssa said she got emotional realizing the gravity of the situation.
"I immediately broke down when we saw all of the kids," Alyssa said.
The Blackburn family doesn't believe it's a coincidence they spotted the fire. They believe a greater force put them in the right place, at the right time.
"The oldest child said to me, 'God moves in mysterious ways',” Randall’s wife, Carmen, said. “She said she believes that we saved their lives."
All 11 children are now in protective custody. Spokane police said no arrests have been made at this time.