NEWCOMERSTOWN, Ohio (WJW) — Inside a Spaulding Avenue home that caught fire early Monday, killing a family of six, state fire investigators found evidence that several types of alternative heating sources were being used: a wood burner, kerosene heaters and electric space heaters.
The victims are believed to include four young girls and their parents. The Tuscarawas County Coroner has not yet positively identified the victims.
“The kids would run and welcome everybody, they were the friendliest people you could ever meet and the fact that this happened is just a tragedy,” said neighbor and extended family member, Adrianna Clay. “I stood there and I watched and I made sure that they got our angels out safely to be in the hands of God and to lay them to rest.”
Neighbors said they believe the fire may have first started at about 12:30 a.m. on Monday. They reported hearing a huge blast around 1 a.m. but, despite the best efforts of firefighters from multiple departments, within an hour and a half, the entire house was on the ground.
Newcomerstown firefighters who responded just after 1:30 a.m. Monday found heavy fire on the first floor of the home, that made it unsafe for them to get into the home, according to a release from the state fire marshal.
Neighbors said the family’s pet dogs are still unaccounted for after the fire.
The cause of the explosion and fire has not yet been officially determined. But Brian Peterman, investigations assistant bureau chief for the state fire marshal’s office, said the heating devices used in the Spaulding Avenue home were “most likely not used in the proper manner.”
“There was a family of six. … They were trying to do whatever they could to stay warm. With those devices, there are hazards that go along with that,” Peterman said.
Investigators have not found any evidence of working smoke detectors, said Peterman. The structure collapsed into the basement, he said.
The takeaway is homeowners should be “especially diligent” in making their homes fire-safe ahead of inclement weather, said Anita Metheny, the marshal’s fire prevention assistant bureau chief.
Ohio State Fire Marshal investigators addressed the Newcomerstown fire and other fatal fires across Ohio at a Tuesday, Dec. 27, media briefing.
State fire marshal investigators are now determining who owns the home and whether it was insured and following up with neighbors and local officials, said Peterman.
FOX 8 has reached out to village officials for more information about the fire response.
The Newcomerstown schools superintendent has released a statement that reads in part, “Our hearts are heavy as we begin to process the enormity of this loss. The school district, staff and entire community send out thoughts, prayers and unwavering support to the family and friends of those who were taken too soon.”
Newcomerstown Schools will offer grief support at West Elementary School Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Additional counselors will also be available when the students return to school next Tuesday.