LYNNWOOD – As dozens of firefighters chased a column of black smoke to a two-story town house on Sunday afternoon, they found flames shooting out the windows of the structure and reports that people were still inside.

When they knocked down the fire enough to enter, the firefighters confirmed the reports: There were two children inside, and they had perished.

Lynnwood town house fire killed Shoreline siblings, 7 and 15, who were visiting a relative, fire officials say

Three other people who had been inside the town house that caught fire managed to escape, including two adults and an 11-year-old boy. Their conditions weren’t immediately available Sunday, but the boy was exposed to smoke and transported to Swedish Medical Center in Edmonds, according to Leslie Hynes, a spokeswoman for South County Fire of Snohomish County.

Hynes didn’t elaborate on how the three were able to escape, or how the people in the home were related, as authorities continued to investigate the cause of the blaze Sunday night. She declined to release information about the ages or genders of the children who had died.

The emergency calls began shortly after 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and a pillar of black smoke signaled the severity of the blaze. Some 45 firefighters responded, Hynes said.

The fire broke out at a complex of seven town houses near the intersection of 196th Street Southwest and 66th Avenue West in Lynnwood, across the street from an Edmonds Community College building. The fire appeared to be concentrated in the center town house, which sustained structural damage, according to Hynes. Other town houses sustained smoke and water damage.

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The fire displaced about 15 residents of the complex, some of whom huddled in an idling public-transit bus to stay warm Sunday evening. News of the fire spread quickly across social media and personal networks, bringing people like Benjamin Perez and Ana Pineda to the scene.

Pineda heard there was a fire and that her cousin was present, but she wasn’t sure if the cousin lived there or was just visiting. She hadn’t been able to reach the cousin.

Perez said his wife was related to a woman who had been at the complex visiting a relative. He was anxious about his wife’s relative and that woman’s young children, ages 1 and 5, but said he didn’t have any details about their condition.

Anei Yel, 18, was playing basketball at an LA Fitness nearby when he saw people posting on social media about the fire and recognized the street. It was the same complex he lived in, he said, as he stood on the sidewalk across from it, working out where he would spend the night.