COATESVILLE, Pennsylvania — Authorities said a mobile home fire that killed three relatives was accidentally sparked by smoking materials discarded outside during conditions ideal for the spread of fire.
Police in West Caln Township in Chester County said the noontime blaze Monday quickly engulfed the home, trapping the victims on a rear deck of the double-wide structure.
The blaze killed 58-year-old Rolanda Rimel, her 52-year-old sister Sally Rimel and Sally Rimel's 37-year-old daughter, Angel Rimel. Four other people, including two children, escaped.
An investigation by the fire marshal determined that a fire started among trash and recycling bins and was sparked by "carelessly discarded smoking materials."
Officials say weather conditions — temperatures in the 80s, low humidity and gusty winds — were a significant factor in the spread of the fire.
All three women were residents of Colwyn in Delaware County, where residents remembered them as kind and caring.
"They're just really nice people, willing to help and do anything," former Mayor Daniel Rutland said.
At New Life Baptist Church, Rolanda Rimel was one of three women the church was honoring on Mother's Day, said pastor Darren Johnson.
"We're really devastated," he said. "Words cannot express how we're transitioning, trying to put the pieces together."
Rutland said the entire family has been service-oriented. Angel Rimel ran for borough council, Sally Rimel formerly served as secretary of the Colwyn GOP Committee and Dave Rimel, brother of the older victims, is a captain with Darby Fire Patrol No. 2.
"They seemed to be a volunteer-type family, all of them," Rutland said. "It wasn't about the money for them, it was about helping people."