Tennessee investigators believe a weekend house fire in which five children and two adults died was an accident, but they don’t know how it started, the Memphis Fire Department said.
“Sometimes when you have that amount of fire, you can’t determine (a cause),” Fire Lt. Keith Staples said. “It has been ruled undetermined.”
The fire broke out about 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 16 and ravaged a two-story brick and wood-frame residence in a low-income, inner-city neighborhood. The fire destroyed the top floor, brought down the roof and gutted the rest of the house.
While investigators could not pinpoint the cause of the fire, Staples said, they found no evidence that it was started intentionally.
“We don’t have any indication to believe that,” he said.
Two teenagers and an 11-year-old boy managed to escape from the burning residence, suffering non-critical burns and smoke inhalation.
A medical examiner’s report identifying the victims and the causes of their deaths was still pending.
Relatives identified family members who were in the house when it burned: Melissa Poole, 38; four of her children, Deon Poole, 18, Diamond Poole, 9, Dajanique Poole, 7, and DaShaun Poole, 5; and a niece and a nephew, Arianna Poole, 4, and Rodney Poole, 1.
The niece and nephew were visiting overnight when the fire broke out, relatives said. The other children lived at the residence with their mother.
Staples said investigators could not determine, because of the fire damage, if the house had a smoke detector.
“Fire crews will be out in that area going door to door checking to see if people have working smoke detectors,” he said. “If they don’t, we’ll be installing them free of charge.”
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