Fire officials are blaming cardboard boxes stored near a wood-burning stove in a weekend house fire that killed a Maine man and his three children and hospitalized their mother in the deadliest fire in the state in 20 years.
The state fire marshal’s office said Monday that the boxes were within inches of the stove, and that a container of lighter fluid found nearby likely accelerated the fire once the boxes ignited.
Thirty-one-year-old Christine Johnson escaped the Saturday morning fire. She remained hospitalized Monday. Killed were her husband, 30-year-old Benjamin Johnson III, and their children, 9-year-old Ben, 8-year-old Leslie and 4-year-old Ryan.
Autopsy results show that they died of smoke inhalation.
It was the deadliest fire in Maine since 1992, when a baby and three adults were killed in an arson fire in Portland.