Angela and Jack Lillard managed to get two of their four daughters out of the burning house at 3915 Highland Ave., but the flames grew too intense to do anything more, said Lois Willard, who lives across the street from the fire-ravaged house.
Willard said Jack Lillard climbed on the garage roof in an attempt to free the girls who were trapped inside as Angela Lillard passed the other two children from a balcony to neighbors waiting below.
Willard said Angela Lillard injured herself when she jumped from the balcony, but she nevertheless tried to re-enter the burning house.
“They were heroes,” Willard said of Angela and Jack Lillard.
Two of the Lillards’ children, 3-year-old Madigan Lillard and 6-year-old Sophie Lillard, died in the fire, according to Cpl. Jennifer Bailey of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
An autopsy conducted at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore determined the children died of smoke inhalation. Their deaths were ruled to be accidental.
Jack Lillard was flown to Med Star Washington Hospital Center, and his daughter, Morgan Lillard, 8, was taken to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Bailey said.
Morgan Lillard was not listed as a patient Friday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A call to Med Star Washington Hospital Center seeking Jack Lillard’s condition was not immediately returned.
Angela Lillard and her 7-month-old daughter, Sadie Lillard, were treated at Frederick (Md.) Memorial Hospital and released.
Bailey said a Middletown Volunteer Fire Company firefighter was also taken to Frederick Memorial for treatment.
The house was engulfed in flames at 11:20 p.m. Thursday when firefighters arrived, according to a sheriff’s office news release. About 75 firefighters from 40 fire and rescue units in Frederick and Washington counties responded to the scene. Crews tried to reach the children who were trapped inside, but they were hampered by the flames and the instability of the structure.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation.
Willard said neighbors helplessly watched as the house was swallowed by flames.
“The oldest girl was lying (outside) there beside the baby, and we ran up and got some blankets to cover them up,” Willard said. “The flames got worse and worse, and Mrs. Lillard kept going, ‘Get my babies. Get my babies.’ You felt so helpless because there you were, watching the flames go up and her babies were still in there.”
On Friday afternoon, all that remained of the home was the back wall, the garage and a chimney. Charred rubble littered what had been the inside of the house and part of the front yard.
Smoke from a few smoldering spots on what remained of the house drifted in a cold, heavy wind toward a swing set in the yard. A minivan, a pickup truck and a sedan remained parked in the driveway near a basketball hoop. Patches of ice and snow covered the ground.
Willard said she was watching television in a bedroom when her daughter, Becky Green, ran upstairs to tell her about the fire.
“I was scared. I seen a glow,” Green said. “It looked like a big sunset. It was huge ... as soon as I turned around again, the whole house was burning.”
Green said she went across the street and asked the Lillards if they needed anything.
“(Angela Lillard) kept telling me, ‘I want someone to take care of my babies,’” Green said.
Green and Willard said they wrapped infant Sadie in blankets and took her inside until medical personnel arrived.
They said other neighbors took care of Morgan.
Debra Ryan brought a teddy bear to the scene and lay it on top of another bear that had been placed there earlier.
Ryan said she didn’t know the Lillards, but she could see the flames from her home.
“I just feel so bad,” Ryan said. “I’ve been up all night worrying about them because I could see the blaze from my house. It was horrible — horrible.”