WARREN, Ohio (AP) - Fire likely caused by a charcoal grill swept
through a family's home that appeared to have no smoke alarms early
Thursday, killing a couple, their two children and two other
children who were sleeping over after a cookout, officials said.
Firefighters arrived to flames that were shooting up to 25 feet
into the air around 5 a.m. and later searched the home to find the
bodies of the two adults on the first floor and all of the children
dead upstairs, Warren Mayor Michael J. O'Brien said. He called the
fire the worst in the history of this city, about 50 miles
southeast of Cleveland.
Fire Chief Ken Nussle said it appears unattended charcoal was
still smoldering around 3 a.m. in the grill, near a rear wall and
abutting wooden fence.
Radiant heat from the grill most likely caused the fire, which
then spread to the upper level of the home, said Shane Cartmill, a
spokesman for the state fire marshal's office. Investigators found
no evidence of smoke alarms inside the home, he said.
Cartmill declined to speculate on what transpired from the last
known time the unattended charcoal was smoldering, about 3 a.m.,
until the fire was reported. It was likely the victims were
sleeping at that time, Warren fire Capt. Jeff Younkins said.
The fire burned a hole in the fence through which the clamshell
grill could be seen on the back deck hours later. Heat from the
blaze peeled vinyl siding from a neighboring house more than 30
The family had a backyard cookout Wednesday night with about
eight to 10 people, said Deborah Ballard, who lives next door. The
mayor described the father as self-employed and the mother as a
homemaker, and he said the other two children were relatives
enjoying a summer sleepover. The names and ages of the victims were
not immediately confirmed, authorities said.
An official cause will be determined after a coroner conducts
autopsies, Cartmill said.
Four firefighters suffered minor injuries, Younkins said.
The family had lived in their neat gray home with white shutters
for about six years, Ballard said.
"They were the sweetest neighbors you'd ever want," Ballard
said. "There was never any problems with them."
The smell of smoke woke her up and she saw flames "jumping off
the roof." In a 911 call, another neighbor told a dispatcher "the
whole roof's on fire."
Firefighters brought two bodies out first.
"I watched them all come out," Ballard said. "I've been
crying ever since."
Erica Putro, 36, who lives across the street, said she ran
outside looking for the family, hoping she could give them a place
By that time it was too late. Rescuers already had brought out
some of the victims.
Most of the damage was toward the back of the house. "The back
of the roof is gone and the siding is melted and falling down to
the driveway," Putro said.
Neighbors said the family included a boy and a girl who were in
elementary school. "They were always outside playing. It's going
to be hard not to see them out there," Putro said.
The death toll could have been worse if a young neighbor hadn't
changed plans to attend the sleepover, the mayor said.
Deandre Smith, 9, instead stayed elsewhere with the uncle of the
two children who lived at the house, according to his mother,
Lakresha Smith, who lives two doors from the burned home.
"It's horrible because it's so close to here and then knowing
that your kid could have been over there," said Lakresha Smith.
The investigation into the fire was likely to take most of
Thursday, Cartmill said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)