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Arson Suspected in Blaze That Killed Seven; Electrical Fire Kills 3

January 16, 1995

BURBANK, Ill. (AP) _ A flammable liquid splashed in the living room and basement of a home spread a fire that killed seven members of an immigrant family, authorities said.

The arson blaze was one of four house fires around the country Saturday that killed 21 people. On Sunday, an electrical fire at a home in Missouri killed three children.

In Burbank, a Chicago suburb, dogs picked up the odor of the accelerant, which has yet to be identified, Police Chief Bill Kujawa said Sunday.

``We’re treating it as a multiple homicide investigation,″ Kujawa said.

He refused to discuss a motive or say whether there were any suspects.

The blaze started in the living room shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday and quickly spread through three rooms of the split-level house.

The dead were identified as Abdulla Yaffai, 62, and his six children, whose surnames were Mohamed: Quasam, 3; Gaze, 5; Hanan, 9; Zain, 13; Aneece, 14; and Mohamed, 16. Yaffai was from Yemen.

Dr. Edmund Donoghue Jr., chief medical examiner for Cook County, said the victims died from inhaling smoke and soot.

As the fire raced through the house, Yaffai managed to push his wife, Fatima Ahmed, 40, out a bathroom window. His pregnant daughter-in-law, 21-year-old Huda Sahadad, also escaped and called neighbors.

Both women remained hospitalized in stable condition Sunday. Family members asked that no more information be released.

Yaffai’s eldest son, Saleh Mohamed, 18, broke down in tears when he heard the news.

``I used to be a brother. I used to have a sister. Now I don’t. No father, either,″ he said. ``They were my family. They were my lovely family.″

Yaffai, who managed a grocery store in New York City for 15 years after immigrating to this country, moved his family to Burbank in January 1994.

Sunday’s fire, in University City, Mo., was blamed on an electrical malfunction. The fire broke out about 2 a.m. in a home where 14 family members were sleeping, said Fire Department Capt. Jeffrey Keller.

Three children died: Danielle Simmons, 5, her 6-year-old sister, Constance, and their 8-year-old cousin, LaShanda Simmons. The other family members escaped unharmed.

The other Saturday fires were in Minnesota, Ohio and Washington state.

Authorities in Moorhead, Minn., said a cigarette left in a couch started the pre-dawn fire that killed a single mother and her six children, ages 2 to 10. A smoke detector inside the apartment apparently was not working, Fire Chief Gary Schulz said.

Two boys, their mother and grandmother died in Hoquiam, Wash., about 85 miles southeast of Seattle in a blaze that Fire Chief Bill Knannlein said was believed ignited by a wood stove.

Fire officials in Columbus, Ohio, said Sunday they still did not know what caused the fire that killed a 35-year-old man and his 9-and 7-year-old daughters.

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