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Source: Kokomo Tribune

Kokomo Fire Dept: Fatal Christmas Eve fire accidental

By Cody Neuenschwander
The Kokomo Fire Department announced Thursday the cause of the Christmas Eve fire that took the lives of 10- and 12-year-old sisters was accidental, specifying the blaze started in the two-story home’s kitchen.

In a press release from the Kokomo Fire Department, officials say no evidence of working, battery-operated smoke detectors was found by fire crews upon their arrival or during their operation at the residence at 908 N. Morrison St.

Evidence was identified, states the press release, “indicating a possible internal failure or area of resistive heating in an unknown electrical appliance energized by a duplex outlet in the kitchen.” The release goes on to say this apparent malfunction “could not be ruled out as the ignition source.”

The fire, which was called in during the early morning hours of Dec. 24, claimed the lives of Lexis Ann Jones, 12, and Mercedes Faith Jones, 10.

According to a fire report from KFD, personnel were dispatched to the fire with knowledge there were still occupants trapped inside. They were greeted at the scene by the two-story structure fully engulfed in flame, with KFD Fire Chief Nick Glover saying the day of the fire that flames were shooting out multiple windows.

As firefighters were preparing multiple hoses, Kokomo Police Department officers on the scene alerted crews two children were still upstairs. As fire personnel attempted to make entry in the front door, the porch fell, leading to the hospitalization of one firefighter, who was released later that morning, said Glover.

The entire downstairs was consumed in fire, states the report, as water was poured onto the blaze from different sides of the house. “Up to this point a search could not be conducted due [to] the intense fire,” states the report.

The fire spread to the second floor and attic area. When first responders were able to reach the second floor, searches were conducted for the two children and ceilings were pulled down to combat the blaze in the attic.

The victims were removed, and Howard County Coroner Steve Seele confirmed that morning they were deceased. Five other family members, including three children, were hospitalized at St. Vincent Kokomo.

At a candlelight vigil held the Friday after the fire, the girls’ mother, Kelley Jones, spoke of her daughters through tears, saying she’s comforted by the thought her daughters are in heaven with their grandmother.

A press release sent out by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Wednesday contained a list of safety tips to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Included in the list:

Space heaters should be kept away from loose or flammable objects, like clothing, curtains, bedding and furniture. Keep at least a 3-foot parameter around space heaters at all times. Additionally, only one space heater should be plugged into an electrical outlet at a time. Never overload electrical outlets.

Don’t leave space heaters running in unoccupied rooms. If the purchase of a space heater is necessary, consider buying one with a built-in tilt sensor that ensures the heater shuts off if it’s tipped over. Refuel kerosene space heaters outside the house in a well-ventilated area, and let it cool down first if it was recently used.

For more information on fire safety, visit GetPrepared.in.gov and follow the Indiana Department of Homeland Security on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IndianaDHS or on Twitter @IDHS.

Cody Neuenschwander can be reached at 765-454-8570 or by email at cody@kokomotribune.com

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