BARTLES, Ohio - A fire swept through a 12-bedroom house in far southern Ohio early Monday, killing five people, including an 8-month old infant, authorities said.
Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless was unable to provide the baby's gender or the ages of the others killed, though he said three of the others were female and one was male. Lawless said he believed the house that went up in flames was a large, private home, not a boarding house. It was located in Elizabeth Township, 93 miles southeast of Columbus.
Neighbor Regina Besco, 47, said she had been on her computer and that she first knew of the fire when someone pounded on the door around 1:30 a.m. She said two young men, probably in their 20s, said their house was on fire and asked if she could call 911.
"The smoke was rolling out of there; there was no way anyone could have gone back in there," Besco said. "They would have died themselves.
"One boy told me his wife and baby were still in there," she said. "When he woke up, he said there was smoke everywhere and he couldn't see anything. He said he had to jump from a second-floor window to get out."
Seven people were reported injured, said Shane Cartmill, a spokesman for the Ohio fire marshal's office. A Lawrence County emergency dispatcher said six were hospitalized from the fire.
Injured were taken to King's Daughters Medical Center in nearby Ashland, Ky., Lawless said. The hospital did not immediately return a phone message.
Authorities believed all the people who had been inside the house were accounted for, Cartmill said.
"It was awful," Besco said. "There were family members outside knowing they couldn't get inside to their loved ones. There was nothing they could do but watch it get worse and worse until it was engulfed in flames. It was terrible, and my heart went out to them."
Investigators were trying to determine what the living arrangements were, as well as how and where the fire started, Cartmill said. It was unclear whether smoke detectors were in use.
The fire was Ohio's deadliest this year, the fire marshal's office said. Because of the heavy damage to the home and the numbers of fatalities and injuries, the investigation will take time, Cartmill said in an e-mail.
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