Family Narrowly Escapes Fire; Teen Accused of Arson

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AKRON, Ohio -- Kelly Coppinger says she had just called her children indoors Monday night after they had been playing outside with friends. It was a school night, and it was time to go to bed.

Her 16-year-old son, Demarco, laid down with his baby sister in a back room trying to help her fall asleep when he says he heard a loud "boom."

"Like a propane grill, it was like a "whoom" sound, and I came outside and saw all the glass (from a picture window on their patio), and I seen someone running from around (the area where the fire started)," he told Fox 8 Wednesday.

The fire was quickly spreading from underneath the patio toward the house. Demarco says he helped his brothers and sisters to safety then ran to the neighbor's house to make sure they got out.

Seeing the flames starting to grow nearer their propane grill, Demarco says he tried moving the grill, but it fell over, and he crashed through the floor of the patio. The teenager says he crawled to safety from underneath the burning patio as the flames spread to their house. He realized it was too dangerous to try and save anything else.

His mother says she got a garden hose and tried to extinguish the flames, but the water seemed to only make them more intense.

"We pretty much just watched from our neighbor's porch," said Kelly.  "When the propane caught on fire, it was like a huge explosion. When that propane tank caught (the neighbor's house), the garage caught on fire."

Police believe the fire was intentionally set by a 13-year-old neighbor who had been playing basketball there only moments earlier. Coppinger says two of her children saw him running from the scene.

Kelley says because their finances were tight she allowed their renter's insurance to lapse when it came due in April, intending to renew it as soon as she was able.

Their family is now left with nothing.

"I don't make much money; my wife is out of work right now so it's extra hard," said Kelly's husband, Darshon.

The Red Cross is helping with a temporary motel room and some clothing and meals, but the Coppingers are not sure where they will live when the temporary arrangements run out.

Connie Markland, who owns the home, says she has no other house for them to live in.

"I'm not sure the house will be able to be repaired at this point," said Markland, whose bigger concern was for the welfare of the Coppinger family.

"Kelly and the kids have just become a part of our life," said Markland. "I'm more concerned that the children are displaced and don't have a home and don't have their belongings, and they have nothing. They have what they left the house that night in. Some of them just had pajama bottoms on," added Markland.

"It would be sad in any circumstance, but these kids are grateful, wonderful, good kids," concluded Markland.

The arson is being handled by juvenile authorities, but Akron Police Lieutenant Rick Edwards tells Fox 8 News this is not the first time the same teenager had been accused of starting a fire. Edwards says the same boy was accused at an earlier date of setting fire to a bedroom in his own house.

His father, who Fox 8 News is not identifying, called the Coppinger's good neighbors and said he would move all of them into his own house if he had the room. He would not discuss the charges against his son.

For anyone wanting to help the family, a Coppinger family fund has been established, and contributions can be made at any Fifth Third Bank.