A fire that started in a home’s fireplace led to the deaths of a 53-year-old grandmother and her four young grandchildren, according to Pennsylvania media reports.
Rosemarie La Barre, a teacher at East Hills Middle School, tried to save the children in the fire that occurred Thursday, Feb. 10, in Polk Township, according to WFMZ. The children, ages 2 through 7, were identified as Kathryn, Kaleb, Kristian and Kasper Ribera.
“Had she not tried to get them out of the house, she’d probably still be alive,” the children’s mother, Markie Ribera, told WFMZ. “But she just loves our babies as much as we do, and so she got to usher them into the gates of heaven.”
The grandma was watching the kids when Markie Ribera and her husband, Carlos, were away, according to Lehigh Valley Live.
Firefighters went to the Monroe County home around 11:50 the night of the fire and found the bodies of the five individuals inside, according to Pennsylvania State Police. Fire marshals have ruled the fire an accident “with nothing suspicious being observed at the scene.”
The Polk Township Volunteer Fire Company referred to the incident as an “absolutely devastating fire.”
“We are devastated as a community about the loss that took place,” the fire company said. “Let’s help this couple stay as strong as possible.”
La Barre taught at the middle school since 2008 and was called a “dedicated and valued teacher” by the district’s superintendent, WBRE reported.
An obituary states she was a member of House on the Rock church in Wind Gap, about 85 miles north of Philadelphia. Markie Ribera is a youth pastor at the church, according to WBRE.
The church will live stream the memorial service for the family, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19. It’s at the church where “the children loved to spend time with their parents,” an obituary states.
Markie and Carlos Ribera said they have been grateful for the outpouring of support they have received.
“Honestly it’s been overwhelming,” Carlos Ribera told WFMZ. “I know for the first two days, Jess (Markie’s friend) was kind of handling everything, but I mean here we are. We’re still getting offers of places to stay. People are still bringing food.”
The mother said she will not let the deaths of her children “be in vain.”
“Bad things happen. It’s not our job to figure out why. We can either get bitter and harder or we can get softer and more loving like Jesus,” she told Lehigh Valley Live.