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Woman, Five Kids Die in Fla. Fire

June 21, 2001

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ST. CLOUD, Fla. (AP) _ Fire swept through a woodframe house early Thursday, killing a 23-year-old woman, her 22-month-old child and four children she had been caring for, authorities said.

The fire broke out about 2 a.m. on the first floor while the woman and the children, who ranged up to 7 years of age, slept upstairs.

``There was so much fire, so much smoke and it traveled fast,″ said Bill Johnston, assistant chief of the St. Cloud Fire Department. ``This is an incredible disaster.″

The State Fire Marshal’s office is investigating the fire.

The woman, whose name was not released, was the mother of the youngest child and was baby-sitting for the children of two other women, authorities said. The other women lived at the house and were out working at an adult dance club, authorities said.

There were no working smoke detectors in the house, he said.

An uncle of one of the children, Rick Allspach, 23, was sleeping on the first floor. He woke, yelled for everyone to get out and called 911, Johnston said. Allspach tried to run upstairs but couldn’t because of the flames and smoke.

He ran outside and climbed on part of the first floor roof to get to a second-floor window.

``You heard him screaming ‘Come to the window! Come to the window!’ on the 911 tape,″ Johnston said.

Sheets of flame shooting from the window finally forced him off the roof. Firefighters found the bodies of two of the children inside under the windowsill. Another was found at the bottom of the stairs.

``I heard this man just yelling and yelling and yelling,″ said Frances Nagle, 80, a neighbor. ``I went outside to my backdoor and all I saw was red.″

Allspach was taken to a hospital for a scratch on his arm and released. Tracie McQuay, one of the mothers, was taken to a hospital for emotional distress.

The home is in downtown St. Cloud, about 15 miles south of Orlando.

Update hourly