A fire apparently started by a malfunctioning kerosene heater gutted a house in New Jersey yesterday, killing five children and a woman, while two other fires killed 10 people.
In Trenton, N.J., Sharon Ceasar, 22, said that in the early morning darkness she heard neighbor William Alfred McCleese yell, "The house is on fire!" and that her boyfriend called firefighters.
"We tried to get in there and save somebody. The front door was locked," she said. "The fire was all over. It was terrible. He McCleese got out the window."
Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Keenan said McCleese urged his girlfriend, Lillie St. Clair, 33, to throw the children down to him from a second-story window and then jump. "Before she had a chance to do either, the fire got too intense," he said.
The victims were identified as St. Clair, her two children, a daughter of McCleese and two young boys staying with them. McCleese, 29, was hospitalized with burns, Keenan said.
Keenan said neighbors who had visited the house Friday night saw McCleese trying to repair a kerosene heater. Such heaters are illegal in Trenton.
A fire in a multifamily house on New York's Staten Island killed three children and one adult and at least 14 other people were injured, authorities said.
Fire Department spokesman John Mulligan said the blaze appeared to have been set by someone smoking in bed. Mulligan said there were no smoke alarms.
Kenneth Mitchell, 29, and his wife Evelyn, 23, leaped out a third-floor window, but two of the their children died and a third was in critical condition. Another tenant was found dead with his 4-month-old granddaughter.
In Thompsonville, Ill., a man and his five children were killed in a fire that destroyed their trailer home. Franklin County Coroner Robert Lewis said the dead man was believed to be Keith Dial. The fire is under investigation.