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2 of Ohio fire dead may have stayed after cookout

By Thomas J. Sheeran

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 16 2011 10:30 a.m. MDT

Firefighters work an early morning fire in Warren, Ohio that killed six people on Thursday, June 16, 2011. The dead included two adults, their two children and two other children who were visiting, said Shane Cartmill, a spokesman for the Ohio fire marshal's office. No sign of any smoke alarms were found in the home, Cartmill said.

The Vindicator, Robert K. Yosay, Associated Press

WARREN, Ohio — Fire swept through a family's home that appeared to have no working smoke detectors early Thursday, killing a couple, their two children and two other children who were sleeping over after a cookout, officials and a neighbor said.

Firefighters arrived to flames that were shooting up to 25 feet into the air and later searched the home to find the bodies of the two adults on the first floor and all of the children dead upstairs, Mayor Michael J. O'Brien said. He called the fire the worst in the history of this city, about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland.

The family had a backyard cookout Wednesday night with about eight to 10 people, said Deborah Ballard, who lives next door. The mayor described the father as self-employed and the mother as a homemaker, and he said the other two children were relatives enjoying a summer sleepover. The names and ages of the victims were not immediately available.

Firefighters found inoperable smoke alarms in the home, he said.

The family had lived in their neat gray home with white shutters for about six years, Ballard said.

"They were the sweetest neighbors you'd ever want," Ballard said. "There was never any problems with them."

The smell of smoke woke her up and she saw flames "jumping off the roof."

Firefighters brought two bodies out first.

"I watched them all come out," Ballard said. "I've been crying ever since."

Erica Putro, 36, who lives across the street, said she ran outside looking for the family, hoping she could give them a place to stay.

By that time it was too late. Rescuers already had brought out some of the victims.

Most of the damage was toward the back of the Cape Cod-style house. "The back of the roof is gone and the siding is melted and falling down to the driveway," Putro said.

Neighbors said the family included a boy and a girl who were in elementary school. "They were always outside playing. It's going to be hard not to see them out there," Putro said.

The investigation into the fire's cause and origin was likely to take most of the day Thursday, said Shane Cartmill, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office.

Associated Press writers John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Doug Whiteman in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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