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January 5, 2014

UPDATE: Space heater sparked New Albany fire that killed three children

Officials vigilant in stressing heating safety as subzero weather approaches

NEW ALBANY — With subzero temperatures expected Monday, local and state officials are being extra vigilant in stressing heating safety — an issue that hit close to home early Saturday morning.

Three children were killed and another was taken to the Indianapolis Burn Center following an early morning house fire at 335 Ealy St. in New Albany after items left too close to a space heater ignited in flames, according to New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot.

The fire started around 2 a.m. in the one-story house, Juliot said. When the first engine arrived, the fire was fully involved. The children’s mother and a friend escaped from the house.

The last time multiple children were killed in a fire in New Albany was about 13 to 15 years ago, according to Juliot. A space heater was the cause of that fire, too.

“It’s never easy losing people. It’s especially difficult when children are involved,” Juliot said. “It’s tough on everyone involved ... police, fire, EMS.”

In a news release, New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan and the city’s fire department offered “their most heartfelt condolences to the families affected by this tragedy.”

According to the release,  an investigation into the cause of the fire “determined that combustibles were within very close proximity to a space heater.” The New Albany and Jeffersonville fire departement investigation bureaus and the Indiana State Fire Marshall’s fire investigator assisted in the investigaiton, and all three agencies reached the same conclusion regarding the cause of the fire, the release stated.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third of home heating fires and four out of five home heating fire deaths in 2011.

Juliot reminded residents to keep a 3-foot perimeter around any kind of heating source and not to leave it unattended. He also emphasized regularly maintenancing smoke detectors and making sure they have fresh batteries.

The home on Ealy Street was equipped with smoke detectors but “firefighters do not recall if they heard any audible noise” when they responded to the blaze, Juliot said.

Names of the victims and their ages have not been released.

 

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Students of Ms. Kitzmiller's first grade class sing and dance in the gymnasium at Grant Line Elementary before heading to their classroom to begin the school year Thursday morning in New Albany.

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