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Fires In Three States Kill 20

January 16, 1989

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) _ A house fire killed seven people, including two who made it within inches of safety but were blocked by a locked door, said authorities, who found the bodies at their feet when they forced open the door.

The fire at the rooming house here was one of five in the nation during the past two days in which 20 people died. A predawn fire today destroyed a rooming house in Niles, Mich., killing at least five residents, police said.

Three fires in eastern Missouri killed eight, including a family of five who died trying to escape a blaze that destroyed their mobile home.

The badly burned bodies of the two men in Yonkers were found just behind the front door of the three-story house, said Fire Commissioner William McLaughlin.

The bodies tumbled onto the stoop when firefighters forced open the door, he said.

Eight other people were injured in Sunday morning’s fire, which burned out of control for 2 1/2 hours, officials said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately determined. Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, authorities said.

″All my friends are gone; they’re all gone,″ said Charles Waller, 43, a resident who escaped unharmed.

The fire was the worst in Yonkers since 1965, when nine children and three adults died in a blaze.

″It’s devastating; it’s very, very sad,″ said Elizabeth Chraetien, a member of the nearby Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, where prayers for the victims were offered at Sunday Masses. ″This is a terribly poor area, but rich in love and care.″

The fire also left 10 people homeless, including an 8-year-old child, said Sam Delapena of the Westchester County Red Cross. One of them was given shelter in a motel and the others were taken in by friends or relatives.

The victims died from smoke inhalation and burns, according to the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office.

In southwestern Michigan, the fire was reported at 12:40 a.m. in the two- story house. Five people were confirmed killed, said police dispatcher Russell York. Three other people managed to escape, said police Lt. Don Lighthart. The cause of the fire wasn’t known.

In Missouri, the bodies of Richard DeVore and his 5-year-old son, Dustin, were found by firefighters in the front doorway of their home in Lemay in St Louis County. Sunday was DeVore’s 34th birthday.

DeVore’s wife, Charlotte, and the couple’s three teen-ager children escaped.

A neighbor helped rescue Mrs. DeVore’s brother, Charles Grounds, 26, a quadriplegic, authorities said.

The mobile home blaze occurred just south of Lonedell, a community of 100 people about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis.

″By the time the fire department got to the scene, the trailer had already burned to the ground,″ said Franklin County sheriff’s Officer Pam Meneffree.

Authorities said the five bodies were burned too badly for positive identification, and confirmation of their tentative identities will require autopsies.

In north St. Louis, a 37-year-old man was killed in a fire that caused extensive damage to a three-story house. Battalion Chief Frank Schaper said the cause was not immediately determined.

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