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Candles Suspected in Fatal Blaze

January 20, 2001

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Investigators think a pair of candles probably sparked a fire that killed five children in the one-room trailer where they lived with their mother and two siblings.

Because the family’s trailer stood on uneven ground, the only door jammed shut, likely trapping the children inside, police spokesman Orlando Rodriguez said.

``They would have had to use significant force to get it open,″ he said.

The children _ aged 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10 _ probably died instantly, investigators said.

The mother, Maria Dulce Martinez, initially told investigators there were no matches or candles in the trailer and that she had used a car battery as a power source, Rodriguez said.

Later, however, Martinez said two candles were burning when she left the small trailer.

``We understand (Martinez) is still grieving, but our interest is focused on the deaths of those five children. Those deaths have to be explained,″ Rodriguez said.

The surviving children were taken Thursday to foster homes. Removing children from the parents’ home is a routine action during an investigation of a child’s injury or death, Children’s Protective Services spokeswoman Marina Yzaguirre said.

No charges have been filed in the deaths but police are consulting with prosecutors, Rodriguez said.

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