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Neighbors, Firefighters Cope with Deaths of 5 Children

LEBANON, Mo -- The community tries to grasp the situation after a trailer fire that killed five kids and hospitalized a mother.

Firefighters and a Lebanon neighborhood are coping tonight with the deaths of five children who were lost in a house fire. 

Pulling up to the scene hours after the fire had been put out at the mobile home, you could still feel the emotion from neighbors gathered near the trailer that had caught fire, ending in the deaths of five children, and put a mother in the hospital. 

Those children ranged from six-months-old to 5-years-old. 

We talked to a young man whose family used to live in the lot that burned Wednesday before moving next door. The teen watched the situation unfold before him. 

For 17-year-old Chase Schrecengost, this summer day started like it would for many teenagers. 

"I was sitting in my room playing video games like a normal boy," said Schrecengost.

But this day would be anything but normal. 

"All the sudden I hear this pop, and I look outside. It was the window that shattered and I could see smoke coming out of the trailer," said Schrecengost 

What he heard next was even worse. 

"The firefighter tried to jump into the window because there was a baby that was in there that was crying," Schrecengost explained.  

With hardly any time to spare, Schrecengost says the firefighter tried to do what he could. 

"The firefighter, whenever he got in there -- he wasn't able to do anything because there was so much smoke, so he had to jump back out," says Schrecengost.

That firefighter was one of the first on the scene. Help arrived, and crews were able to get into the trailer overwhelmed by smoke. With five children found dead inside, Schrecengost saw that same firefighter overwhelmed by emotion. 

"I (saw) him, head down, looked like he was crying," said Schrecengost. "I think it was knowing that he wasn't able to save a child," Schrecengost said.  

Lebanon Fire Chief Sam Schneider says the department is treating his staff with extra sensitivity after a situation like this one.

"Certainly not in our small community of Lebanon have we seen something of this magnitude," says Schneider. 

 The crew that worked the scene today was sent home to spend time with family and friends to decompress, and the department is going even further to make the mental health of their staff a priority. 

"We will also make available to them any type of counseling services or anything of that nature that may be necessary," says Schneider. 

Back at the scene, neighbors like young Chase Schrecengost are doing some coping of their own. 

"What we decided to do was we would get 10 flowers -- 2 for each child -- and five spinners and five balloons to represent those children," Schrecengost explained. "We put them all together to let people know they'll be in heaven together and they won't have to worry about them anymore." 

While Schrecengost knows there isn't much he could have done, he still feels the gravity of the situation, and will take something away from what happened next door. 

"Hope it never happens to me, and prepare for it if it does. Be able to actually do something instead of just standing there," says Schrecengost. 

There is still no word on the condition of the mother, who was life-flighted to Springfield, and the Fire Marshall has not yet determined what the cause of the fire was. 


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