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February 7, 2013

Sheriff: Wood stove eyed in fire that killed 5

SULPHUR — A fire that swept through a mobile home early Thursday, killing two children and three adults, appears to have been sparked by a wood stove that served as the sole source of heat in the rural southern Indiana home, authorities said.

Crawford County Sheriff Tim Wilkerson said it took firefighters two hours to extinguish the fire that gutted the home in Sulphur, about 30 miles west of Louisville, Ky.

Although they had an electric furnace, the occupants had been using a wood stove to heat the home, Wilkerson said. Investigators suspect the stove sparked the fire and the State Fire Marshal’s office is assisting in an investigation, he said.

The homeowner’s father, who lives nearby, spotted the flames about 12:30 a.m. He ran to the burning home but suffered a gash on his hand as he tried to open the front door and was driven back by intense flames, Wilkerson said.

“He ran down there immediately but the fire was too much for him. There was just no way he could get in there. It was fully engulfed by that time,” he said.

The mobile home’s owner, John Denton, 32, died in the fire along with his 8-year-old daughter Kara Denton, and Denton’s half brother, Bill Turben, 35, relatives said. John Denton’s girlfriend and her 3-year-old son also died in the fire.

Hours after the fire Bill Turben’s sister, Rose Turben, and other relatives stood near the burnt-out home, which is a few miles from Sulphur, a village of about a dozen homes surrounded by rolling hills, filled with tracts of fields and dense woods near. A child’s scooter and a small basketball goal were nearby.

Turben said Denton rarely used his electric furnace because it was expensive to run.

“It’s all a matter of saving money,” she said sadly.

A firefighter chaplain was still dressed in his firefighting gear when Wilkerson asked the surviving family members to join hands and kneel together in the kitchen of the father’s mobile home.

“I said, ‘Let’s all just say a prayer,”’ Wilkerson said.

“There were cries and breakdowns,” he said. “It’s like a wall falls on you. It felt like that to me.”

Turben’s voice cracked as she described her niece Kara, a second-grader at Marengo Elementary School who loved to draw and color.

“If you were ever sad, all you had to do was look at that child’s face. She would turn your world completely around,” she said.

Kara mostly lived with her mother and grandmother in nearby Marengo, but she spent Wednesdays and every other weekend with her father, Turben said.

Rose Turben said Denton had only recently met his girlfriend and that they had been talking about moving in together.

“Seemed to be a match made in heaven,” she said tearfully. “They haven’t been together very long and now they’ll be together forever.”


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