Ohio House Fire Kills 5, Including Infant

A fire swept through a 12-bedroom house in rural, southern Ohio early Monday, killing five people, including an 8-month-old, 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 split-level house that went up in flames was a large, private home, not a boarding house. It was located in Elizabeth Township, about 15 miles north of Ashland, Ky., near where the Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia state lines meet.

Neighbor Regina Besco, 47, said she had been on her computer when two men, probably in their 20s, pounded on the door around 1:30 a.m. They said their house was on fire and asked her to 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. All were brought to King's Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, but spokesman Tom Dearing said he could not comment on the nature or extent of the injuries.

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."

Besco, whose mobile home next door was not affected by the fire, did not know her neighbors' names, but said they had lived there several years and that she knew at least some of them were related.

Investigators were trying to determine what the living arrangements were in the house that burned, 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.