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Father Killed In Apartment Blaze Was Training to Become a Firefighter

Father Killed In Apartment Blaze Was Training to Become a Firefighter

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Seattle Post Intelligencer via YellowBrix

January 04, 2011

SEATTLE – The father who was killed in a New Year’s morning blaze was training to become a firefighter and had recently passed his initial firefighting tests, says the manager of the apartments where he died.

David Thompson, 32, who was killed in the apartment fire along with his four sons, also worked as a maintenance assistant at the apartment complex and was well-respected by everyone there, said apartment manager Teresa Lunsford.

The new details about Thompson came out as investigators finished collecting evidence at the scene of a deadly New Year’s day fire in Redmond.

Redmond Police spokesman Greg Twentey said the state crime lab is processing evidence from the scene, but it could be some time before the cause of the blaze is pinpointed because forensic tests can take a long while.

In the meantime, unofficial theories about the fire’s cause have been advanced, ranging from a possible gas leak to ashes smoldering in a bathroom wastebasket.

The fire broke out at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday in a ground floor unit of the Sammamish Ridge Apartments, only hours after the family had welcomed in the New Year with some neighbors. Killed in the blaze were Thompson, 32, and his four sons, Tristin, 12; David, 6; Leviticus, 4; and Wyatt, 2.

The boys’ mother, Lilly Resor, 31, was able to escape, and neighbors had to restrain her from running back into the burning building as she screamed in agony at the overwhelming realization of what was happening.

While the fire was still smoldering Saturday morning, investigators were already at the scene, but there were no immediate signs it was intentionally set, said Redmond police spokesman Officer Matt Peringer.

In the absence of official information about the fire’s cause, at least two theories have been advanced – a possible gas leak or smoldering ashes from a marijuana joint or a cigarette in a bathroom wastebasket.

The gas leak theory was suggested by the biological mother of the oldest boy killed in the fire, who was previously married to David Thompson and now lives in Colorado.

She said their daughter spoke by phone to Thompson on New Year’s Eve, just hours before the fire, and Thompson told her there was a strong smell of gas in the apartment.

“He told her that he had smelled gas. He said, ’It’s odd that I smell gas. I better go check that out.’

But she doesn’t know if Thompson ever got a chance to do that.

The smoldering ashes theory was contained in a published report by The Seattle Times, quoting an unnamed law enforcement source who said Thompson and Resor were smoking pot on New Year’s Eve and may have left ashes smoldering in the bathroom.

But Lunsford said that kind of scenario doesn’t match the Thompson she knew, who had lived at the Sammamish Ridge Apartments for about 18 months and whom she knew very well.

“I know that David had just passed the fire department testing to become a firefighter, so you tell me if he could do that (smoke marijuana) while he’s ready to enter the fire department. That doesn’t mesh with me,” she said.

“He was so proud of that fact. Not a pompous swagger but, ‘Hey, things are going good – I did that.’ And as he would walk around here, that life was becoming good.”

Lunsford says that Thompson was an excellent father who spent every moment he could with his four sons. She said he was well-respected by everyone at the apartment complex, where he worked as a maintenance assistant.

Lunsford said that Thompson’s boss at the apartment complex had lunch with him on Friday.

“He told David, ’You’re such a good man, you’re a good father,’ and can you imagine, on the day of your death, to even hear those words?”

“We loved this family,” she said. “The boys were wonderful – they were so sweet. … They were happy boys, well-mannered boys. They smiled, they played, they laughed.”

Lunsford also said it was almost impossible to restrain the boys’ mother from running back into the blazing apartment on the morning of the fire.

The apartment manager says she still has claw marks on her skin from Lilly Resor’s attempts to break free from her and other neighbors who were holding her back. Eventually Resor had to be dragged away from the scene by three firefighters.

She said Lilly is “physically not well at this moment – emotionally, spiritually not well at this moment.”

The apartment manager also said several of the family’s neighbors are dealing with feelings of guilt that they were unable to save Thompson and his four sons despite their heroic efforts.

“This is a family community,” Lunsford said. “Some of them are very – you know, it’s hard to find the correct words – disturbed, devastated – the ones that tried, those are the ones that are hardest hit, the ones who were the first ones at the scene to hear the screams.”

But she said that realistically there was nothing they could do. When the first neighbor at the scene smashed in a window of the burning apartment unit to go in, he was forced back by a blinding gusher of black smoke.

“That is when I knew – I knew ….”