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Pastor of Riddle church: 'I love you and God loves you. Hang on to him'

RIDDLE, Ore. - At a prayer vigil for the 4 children killed in a deadly house fire that left their parents and an older sibling seriously injured Wednesday, Pastor Carl Slaughter spoke with the family's grandmother.

"The thing she shared with me is, ‘Pastor, these are all my babies,’” said Slaughter, pastor at First Baptist Church of Riddle. “And all I could say is, ‘I know, and I love you and God loves you. Hang on to him.’"

"You know, pastors are not supposed to cry," he added. "It doesn't work sometimes."

The fire early Wednesday morning claimed the lives of Gwendolyn Howell, 4; Haley Maher, 7; Isaiah Young, 10; and Nicholas Lowe, 13.

James Keith Howell, 39; Tabitha Annette Howell, 38; and Andrew Hall-Young, 13, suffered serious injuries.

RELATED | Fire chief: Portable heater sparked house fire that killed 4 children

Countless people stopped by the burned house on E. Third Avenue on Thursday, some paying their respects at the growing memorial in front of the home.

Slaughter's church hosted a prayer vigil Wednesday.

He said the Howell family children attended vacation bible school in the summer.

"Oh, they were loved,” he said Thursday. “There's no doubt about it. There were lots of children in the service yesterday, and that's the part that really broke my heart. They lost friends."

In a town of fewer than 1,200 people, the pastor said the community is coming together for a family who touched so many lives.

"My hopes is that this whole community, as they did last night, will continue every day to reach out to the family and let them know that they're cared for and loved," Slaughter said. "They've got a long time to try to let the healing come and they need all the support they can get."

Tabitha, Jimmy and Andrew Howell all remained on life support as of Thursday morning, according to a Legacy Emanuel Hospital spokesperson in Portland.

There is no word yet on funeral arrangements for the four children who lost their lives in the fire.

A GoFundMe account set up for the family had raised nearly $30,000 in 24 hours.

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