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Twenty People Dead in Fires in Seven States

December 24, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Fires in seven states killed 20 people, including six residents of a home for the elderly and a young girl whose pregnant mother helped rescue five relatives from an apartment blaze that also took the lives of two other children.

A fire early today gutted the boarding home in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., killing six residents and injuring the other five, two critically, officials said.

Many of the victims died in their sleep, said Lawrenceburg Fire Chief Roy Holloway.

A passer-by reported the blaze at J&D Residential Home at 4:23 a.m. CST and firefighters had the fire out within a half hour, he said.

The five survivors managed to escape from the one-story structure by the time firefighters arrived, he said. The others died inside the home.

The cause of the blaze at the 14-room home was not known, but arson was ruled out, the fire chief said. The dead included a 16-year-old boy from the family that owns the house.

Fire swept through a rowhouse on Baltimore’s west side today, killing a 3- year-old girl and injuring four other people, two critically.

The body of Sharante Grissom was found on the second floor of the two-story brick home by firefighters who arrived at 3:15 a.m., said Capt. Pat Flynn, a fire department spokesman. The fire, which started in the front room on the first floor, was probably accidental, Flynn said.

In Keno, Ore., a fire destroyed a mobile home today, killing a 2-year-old child and severely burning an 18-month-old toddler.

On Tuesday, fires occurred in Nebraska, Massachusetts, Colorado and Georgia, where a woman who couldn’t pay her electric bill was killed along with her two sons and sister in a blaze that may have been sparked by candles being used for light.

In Chelsea, Mass., Miriam Santiago, 22, was babysitting for her daughter and seven nieces and nephews, all 4 or younger, when the fire broke out in the three-story, wood-frame building.

Ms. Santiago, who is due in three months, her 19-year-old brother, Carmelo, and a deliveryman ″scooped up whatever kids they could,″ said neighbor Mattie Williams. They initially thought they had saved all the children, then the flames kept them from re-entering.

Killed were Sonia Denise Santiago, 16 months; Tonya Vega, 3, and Melissa Vega, 2, family members said. The Vega girls’ mother, Rosa, a sister of Ms. Santiago, dropped the children off so she could go Christmas shopping.

Carmen Valentin said she found her sister and the rescued children in a delivery truck. ″She was screaming there, ‘I saved my nieces and nephew but not my own child,’ ″ Mrs. Valentin said.

Miriam Santiago was in stable condition at Whidden Hospital in Everett, where she was treated for shock, said nursing supervisor Peggy Corbett.

Evangelia Vega, 50, great-aunt of two of the victims, was in fair condition with cardiac complications, Ms. Corbett said.

Officials were investigating the cause of the fire, Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Von Handorf said.

In Dahlonega, Ga., a fire that killed four relatives was believed to have been ignited by a candle used for lighting, said Lumpkin County Sheriff Kenneth Seabolt.

Joann Adams, 29, her sons Monroe, 9, and Gary, 8, and sister Ernestine Croy McClure, 30, were killed, said Assistant Fire Chief Jack Sisk.

Raymond Lindblade, a family friend who had been sleeping on a couch in the four-room house, escaped with Ms. Adams’ 10-year-old daughter.

He attempted to return to the house, but intense heat prevented him, said J.R. Holloway, a sheriff’s department investigator.

Divorced since 1983, Ms. Adams had not worked since early in the year because of difficulties in holding a job and caring for the children, said her brother, Tommy Croy.

Horace Croy, Ms. Adams’ father, said she owed $440 in back rent and $130 for the electric service.

″She took this month’s child support and bought Christmas presents,″ the elder Croy said.

Although Seabolt speculated candles ignited the blaze, the state fire marshal’s office said no cause had been determined.

In Thornton, Colo., an early morning fire trapped a man and two young children in the basement of a home, killing all three, said Fire Chief George Buck. The mother of the children was at work.

The victims, identified as Thomas Putman, 32, the mother’s boyfriend; Jennifer Williams, 4, and her 2-year-old brother, Jeffery, apparently were asleep and could not escape because the flames blocked the stairs, Buck said.

The blaze started when a chair next to a wood-burning stove caught fire.

In Omaha, Neb., Lydia Thomas, 24, died after firefighters battled heavy smoke and flames to carry her and her two sons from their burning house. One son, 2-year-old Jeffrey, died today in a hospital, and a second son, 4-year- old Michael Kiser, was in critical condition.

The three apparently were sleeping in upstairs bedrooms when the fire broke out in the living room of the wood-frame house Tuesday afternoon, fire officials said.

All three suffered smoke inhalation. They weren’t breathing and their hearts had stopped beating when they were brought from the house, District Fire Chief Jack Conry said. Firefighters revived all three on the front lawn.

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