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Six Killed in Amish Farmhouse Fire

October 8, 2000

TAMPA, Kan. (AP) _ An Amish woman and five of her daughters were killed early Saturday when their central Kansas farmhouse burned. Six family members escaped with minor injuries when they jumped from a second floor window.

``The worst thing was we found the five girls huddled together,″ said McPherson Fire District No. 6 Fire Chief Mike Becker. ``But at least they had their last moments together.″

Becker, who knew the family, said the only chance of surviving the fire in the old wood-frame farmhouse would have been to jump from the window. The fire blocked any escape down the stairs, he said.

The bodies of the girls, ages 3 to 15, were found in one room, and their mother, Mary Thayer, was found in a separate room. Their father, Richard Thayer, had jumped and was in the front yard when Becker arrived.

``He turned his attention to the children that survived, and I turned my attention to the fire,″ Becker said. He said the survivors, two girls and three boys, the youngest of them 11, had bruises and cuts from broken glass.

The family had been asleep when the fire broke out about 6 a.m., Becker said. By the time the oldest son had driven to a neighbor’s house to call for help and firefighters arrived, the rural farmhouse was engulfed in flames.

Becker said the fire likely started in the family’s wood stove.

``Last night was our first cool night and they apparently had fired it up for the first time,″ he said.

The State Fire Marshall’s office was investigating.

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