FAIRFIELD (BCN) — Six Fairfield police officers were honored Wednesday afternoon for their attempts to save four young children who died in a residential fire in April.
Community Services Officer Edder Botello and Officer Steven Trojanowski Jr., the first officers on the scene on April 28, received the Fairfield Police Department’s Exceptional Performance Citation for acting well above and beyond the call of duty.
Four police officers who arrived moments later—Kelly Rombach, Derrick Fok, Craig Jiminez and Rich Williams—received the Police Department’s Distinguished Service Medal for great devotion to duty by trying to enter the burning apartment without hesitation.
Natalie Rogers and Nevaeh Nunn, both 2, and Keviana Morgan, 1, died in the blaze, which was reported at 9 p.m. at 728 Delaware St.
Robert Charles Jr., 4, was taken to the Northbay Medical Center and died soon after.
Their mothers, Shetarra James, 23, and Latisha James, 24, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
Police said Botello and Trojanowski were advised there were four young children trapped inside the building.
Botello tried to enter the apartment through a rear window and Trojanowski tried to enter thorough the front door with a garden hose, but both officers were driven back by the thick smoke, police said.
The other four officers entered through the front door on their hands and knees without any firefighting apparatuses or breathing equipment, police said.
Rombach and Fok entered side by side, and Jiminez and Williams crawled behind them.
The officers gripped each other’s duty belts in case one of them had to be pulled out of the burning apartment, police said.
The officers got 10 feet inside the living room before they were overcome by the intensity of the smoke, police said.
The police officers withdrew when firefighters arrived and entered the apartment.
“While the firefighters were unable to save the four children, the actions of these first responders ensured that every opportunity to save them was exhausted,” Lt. Frank Mihelich said in a statement.
Fire investigators said the children’s mothers were outside the apartment when the fire started and that candles were burning inside because gas and electric power had been shut off.
A preliminary hearing for the two mothers is scheduled for Friday morning in Solano County Superior Court in Fairfield, but Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen said Shetarra James’ attorney, Amy Morton, will ask Judge Peter B. Foor Friday morning to postpone the hearing.
Morton has requested more photographs taken by the fire department, Jensen said.
Jensen said she provided some of the photos to the defense on Tuesday and will object to the postponement.
There were three candles burning inside the apartment, she said, one each on top of a television, computer table and an air conditioner.
The candle on the air conditioner was not involved in the fire, and the candle on top of the television was out of the oldest child’s reach, Jensen said.
The candle on top of the computer table caught the oldest child’s clothes on fire, Jensen said.
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