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Middle-of-the-night fire rages through Ohio home, killing baby, 4 others

Kyle Whitmer searched the remains of his mother’s home yesterday in Pedro, Ohio, hours after a fire killed five people. Kyle Whitmer searched the remains of his mother’s home yesterday in Pedro, Ohio, hours after a fire killed five people. (Jeff Gentner/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / October 5, 2010

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PEDRO, Ohio — Fire swept through a 12-bedroom house in rural southern Ohio early yesterday, killing five people and injuring seven. One survivor said he jumped out a window to escape the flames, which left only a few studs and a small section of the home’s side intact.

Four women and an 8-month-old boy were killed in the fire, Ohio’s deadliest this year, said Shane Cartmill, a spokesman for the state fire marshal’s office. The seven injured were expected to survive, said Kyle Whitmer, who lived in the home.

The fire began in a central breezeway, but the exact cause remained under investigation, Cartmill said. Whitmer said it’s possible the fire started in a plant-filled room, where a space heater had been turned on Sunday afternoon.

Whitmer said he was awakened by someone kicking in the door of his room. He jumped off a second-floor balcony.

As he sifted through the ashes at midday, Whitmer, 20, said the house was owned by his mother, Kathy, 52. She was hospitalized after burning her feet running through the house to warn others, he said.

It was Kathy Whitmer’s dream house, a place where she could live with her family, friends, and even friends of friends, her son said.

They lived there with Kyle Whitmer’s girlfriend and her mother; his sister and her boyfriend; and friends who had fallen on hard times. His sister, Rachel, was among the dead, Kyle Whitmer said.

He said the boy who died was named Xavier and was the son of a woman dating Kyle Whitmer’s friend.

As he looked through what remained of the home, Kyle Whitmer opened a tarnished storage cabinet in search of photographs, perhaps of his sister, but they had burned.

The home was in a valley in Lawrence County’s Elizabeth Township, about 15 miles north of Ashland, Ky., near where Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia meet. A creek winds behind the house, and the metal frame of a child’s bicycle sat under a sugar maple tree out front.

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