Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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January 10, 2014

House fire kills 3, man burned saving kids

HAMMOND (AP) — A house fire that killed three children and critically injured their father as he rescued their two siblings may have been sparked by a space heater used to warm the home, authorities said Thursday.

Firefighters arrived Wednesday night at the two-story home in Hammond to find flames shooting out of a front window and the children’s badly burned father standing outside with the two children, ages 5 and 7, he had rescued.

Chief Fire Inspector Michael Opinker said the 28-year-old man told firefighters his three other children were still inside the burning home, but firefighters were unable to quickly enter the structure.

“The front door was barricaded, so they had to take the hinges off to get in,” Opinker told The Times of Munster.

Firefighters’ work was also hampered by the intense heat of the flames of the fire, which was reported about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, he said.

The bodies of 7-month-old Jayden Young, his 4-year-old brother, Dasani Young, and their 3-year-old sister, Alexia Young, were later found in the home’s first-floor living room, said Hammond Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Margraf.

The three siblings had died from burns, the Lake County coroner’s office said.

Margraf said the home had multiple space heaters, including ones power by kerosene, propane and electricity. He said investigators suspect that a propane heater in the home may have sparked the blaze.

“They had quite an assortment of space heaters, but the one with greatest concern for us is the propane-fed space heater,” he said. “It appears to be an accidental fire. We just haven’t pinpointed the ignition source yet.”

A utility crew is investigating whether the home’s furnace was operational, Margraf said.

The father and the two surviving children were initially transported to Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Chicago before being airlifted to the burn unit at Stroger Hospital in Chicago.

Opinker said the children’s mother was not home at the time of the fire, but she was at the hospital with her husband and children Thursday afternoon.

The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office is helping in the investigation. Opinker said investigators planned to speak to the children’s mother as part of their routine investigation.

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