Arson ruled in Ohio fire killing 3, including baby

AP News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2010 6:18 PM
Arson ruled in Ohio fire killing 3, including baby

An arson fire tore through a two-story house in a working class neighborhood near downtown Columbus early Friday, killing three people including a woman and her infant granddaughter, authorities said.

A fire dog picked up on evidence of arson, and the deaths are considered homicides, said Fire Battalion Chief David Whiting. He said the fire started on the porch outside the house, and investigators are pretty certain some kind of accelerant was used.

The victims were a 52-year-old woman, her 7-month-old granddaughter, and a man who was either 18 or 19 years old, Whiting said. He did not know if the man was related to the other two. Their names were not immediately released.

Whiting wouldn't discuss motives but said there had been a number of problems in the house, which is in a poor neighborhood where violence is common.

"It looked terrible," said Opal Elkins, 79, who lives across the street and went out on her front porch to watch the fire after her next-door neighbor called to wake her.

"From what I could see, it looked like (the flames) were mostly coming from the top of the house," Elkins said. She said she did not know the people who lived there.

The fire was reported just after 5 a.m. Friday in the Franklinton neighborhood, which has older homes, including a number that are abandoned. Firefighters arrived to find the wood-frame house engulfed in flames "from top to bottom" but were able to contain the fire by 6 a.m., Whiting said.

The man was found dead outside the house, by a window, while the other two bodies were in a bedroom, he said.

The fire left the home a charred wooden shell with pink insulation hanging from an upstairs window like a long sash. Two adjacent houses _ one occupied, the other vacant _ were heavily damaged, Whiting said.

A firefighter overcome by heat was taken to a hospital and was expected to be fine, Whiting said. No other injuries were reported.

A message for comment was left Friday for Police Sgt. Eric Pilya of the Columbus homicide division.

Whiting said investigators did not know if the home had smoke detectors.

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Associated Press Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.