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House Fire Kills 5 Children

November 22, 1997

WESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Five children are dead.

It didn’t matter that the fire station was less than two blocks away.

It didn’t matter that there was a fire extinguisher on hand.

It didn’t matter that family, neighbors and passers-by tried desperately to save them.

Five children are dead.

The children, from two families, ranged in age from 3 to 10. They were killed Friday morning in a house fire. The home’s owner said one of the children was playing with matches or a lighter and started the blaze.

``I looked out the window. I never saw anything like that in my life,″ said James Fealy, who was visiting across the street. ``It had to be a matter of minutes. It was just unbelievable.″

Firefighters arrived one minute after receiving the emergency call but found the two-story home in flames, Fire Chief Mike Young said.

Five adults escaped. At least one tried to go back for the children but was repelled by heat and thick smoke.

Fealy joined construction workers, neighbors and the adult survivors outside the home as flames shot out the windows and power lines popped loudly.

``The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see, much less breathe,″ said Sheriff Bob Rinehart.

The roof and second floor collapsed onto the first floor. It took firefighters 45 minutes to bring the blaze under control. Afterward, charred wooden planks, shelves, mattresses, clothes and a metal desk were strewn on the porch. A soot-covered baby doll lay outside.

The state fire marshal’s office identified the children as siblings Brandon Castner, 8, Kimberley Castner, 9, and Serrica Castner, 10, along with Jimmy Ables, 3, and his sister, Nickie Ables, 5. The Castner and Ables families lived in the home.

Some of the children were home from school because of a faculty day. Weston, population 5,000, is about 100 miles north of Charleston.

Jeannette Ables, mother of the Ables children, was placed in an ambulance screaming ``I don’t want to go!″

Rinehart said Ricky Brown, the home’s owner and stepfather of the Castner children, told him the fire began when one of the children was playing with matches or a lighter. The cause was under investigation.

The sheriff said Brown’s year-old fire extinguisher malfunctioned. Brown wouldn’t talk to a reporter.

``If it would have worked, the fire would have been out,″ Brown’s mother, Delores Jean Merriman, said as she huddled in a neighbor’s home.

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