MANSFIELD, Ohio -- A $5,000 reward is being offered to help arson investigators find the person or persons who set fire to a vacant home, which spread, killing a three-year-old girl next door. Seven other people inside the home managed to escape the flames.
A neighbor captured cell phone video of flames roaring from two homes on South Foster Street in Mansfield just before 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
"I looked out that window and seen it, the entryway of this abandoned home, it was like a bonfire," said Heather Layne, who lives across the street.
Mansfield arson investigators said someone first set fire to an abandoned home and the flames quickly spread to the house next door where eight people, including five children and a pregnant woman were sleeping inside.
"She said there's a three-year-old girl in the house, and I ran up to the house and by that time the fire department pulled up and my mom and all of them are pulling me back away from the door like, you can't go in there, you can't go in there, it's already on fire, there's nothing you can do," said Layne’s daughter, Zoey Joplin.
Firefighters said the flames were too intense to save the three-year-old girl. Several neighbors helped get the four children and three adults out safely.
The pregnant woman was taken to the hospital after complaining of labor pains.
"She told me she was pregnant with her fifth boy, that she didn't get a girl and I'm just happy that she's okay, but I'm just sad because she was babysitting that little girl and she passed away and that was the worst feeling ever," said neighbor Tina Wheatcraft.
Neighbors said the fire hydrant directly across the street from the home did not work. The Mansfield fire chief said firefighters used booster tanks until they connected to other hydrants about 300 feet away.
"There really was nothing that could have been done differently, nothing... that whole side of the house, by the time we got there, that door and my daughter beat that door down for them to get out, it was already engulfed where that baby was," said Layne.
Neighbors also told investigators they saw a group of teenagers near the vacant home just before the fire started.