WATERLOO — The mother of the two children who died in a Waterloo house fire early Thursday died Friday in Iowa City.
Amber Dawn Everman, 33, died at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, authorities said.
Two of Everman’s children — Amari Burkett, 9, and Ava Everman, 6 — died in the fire at the family’s home at 1815 Commercial St., reported shortly after 4 a.m. by passersby.
A third child escaped the fire by climbing through a window.
The children’s father was at work at the time.
Firefighters arrived at the home four minutes after the 911 calls and pulled Everman and the two children from an upstairs window.
Authorities have not yet determined how the fire started, though Fire Chief Pat Treloar said the fire began in the living room.
Meanwhile, family members are left grieving and looking for answers.
“It’s a sad, sad story, a sad end. I just think why, how can this be,” Ashley Cahalan, Everman’s cousin, said Friday. “We grew up together, a lot of childhood memories.”
Cahalan moved to North Dakota, but she would see Everman and her children when she returned to Iowa for family functions.
“It’s never easy to lose one person, let alone two children. They were so young,” Cahalan said. “It’s very heartbreaking and hard to wrap your head around.”
Five dogs and a cat also died in the fire. Six adult dogs and three puppies that were in the basement survived and are being sheltered at the Cedar Bend Humane Society.
Animal control officers said the surviving dogs weren’t injured because there wasn’t any smoke or fire in the basement.
The door was closed to the bedroom of the Everman daughter who survived, which kept smoke out of the bedroom and allowed her to escape, fire officials said.
The community is coming out to support the surviving family members. A relative has set up a fundraiser at YouCaring.com to collect money for funeral and medical expenses.
Local businesses also are coming forward.
New Adventures Bar Grill Arcade in Waterloo is collecting donations, co-owner Dustin Newhoff said.
“We are big into the family aspect of things and helping out the community,” Newhoff said. “Want to help out the family.”
Newhoff said his establishment is partnering with Jay Wolfe, who operates MaidPro, for a benefit show in the future.
The businesses organized a similar event in January, attended by some 200 people, for the families of three young men who died in a Cedar Falls crash.
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A date for the benefit hasn’t been set, but the public can still make donations at the establishment.
MaidPro also is accepting donations, Newhoff said.