Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Police & Fire

Sheet over light blamed for fire that killed boy


Jasman Johnson prays after putting flowers and a stuffed animal outside the house where a fire killed a 4-year-old child.


A child placing a sheet over a light is believed to have started a fire that killed a 4-year-old East Toledo boy, fire officials said yesterday.

Chanz Williams is believed to have died from smoke inhalation, but a final ruling is pending toxicology tests that will show his carbon monoxide level, said Dr. Cynthia Beisser, a Lucas County deputy coroner.

Firefighters found his body on the floor in a second-floor bedroom, where the blaze began inside his family's home at 753 Forsythe St.

Chanz' parents, Robert and Beth Williams, and their 5-year-old daughter, Lauren, escaped. Mrs. Williams and her daughter were treated at St. Charles Mercy Hospital.

A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals and flowers yesterday started to fill the front steps of the house, which sustained about $50,000 damage.

"It's sad," said Josh Hamilton, 17, who lives four houses away. "When you're outside and you hear a kid screaming, it's scary. It's hurtful."

John Crosslin said his grandson, Chanz, was a "happy little kid."

"He was very playful. He would tease and razz me when they came over," Mr. Crosslin said.

He recalled Chanz' delight at riding the merry-go-round at Southwyck Shopping Center two weeks ago.

"He had a ball," Mr. Crosslin said. "He won't get to do that again."

Mr. Crosslin said his wife and daughter spoke to one another about 9 p.m. Thursday.

An hour later, he said, his daughter called and said her house was on fire and her son was dead.

Passers-by banged on the door to alert the family, who fire officials said were unaware of the blaze. They grabbed Lauren, who officials said was in the living room with her parents.

Passers-by, Mr. Williams, and police tried to climb the stairway to the second floor, but couldn't because of the smoke and flames, authorities said.

Deputy Fire Chief Bob Metzger said a smoke detector on the first floor wasn't working. No detectors were found or heard by firefighters on the second floor. If one was there, it would have been destroyed in the blaze, he said.

Chanz' death was the second fire death in the city Thursday.

The first occurred in the morning when an elderly Nebraska Avenue man died after items were placed too close to an electric space heater in his central city home.

Fire Chief Mike Bell said it is "very rare" to have two unrelated fire deaths in a 24-hour period. He extended condolences to both families and said, "For us, it was a really bad day."

Once again, Chief Bell urged residents to use working smoke detectors and to have a good escape plan that is practiced "over and over and over again."

He said to replace smoke detectors that are more than 10 years old.

Last year, the fire department handed out about 10,000 smoke detectors. Residents can call 419-245-1140 to see if they qualify for one.

Chief Bell asked residents to have clear exit routes and to keep their homes organized. Firefighters couldn't get into the Nebraska Avenue home because of the occupants' belongings.

He also urged residents to keep items that might catch fire away from secondary heating sources, such as space heaters.

"The bottom line is we can talk about all of this. But unless people do the things we tell them to, there's only so much we can do," Chief Bell said. "The solutions are extremely simple."

Blade staff writer Luke Shockman contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at

or 419-724-6007.

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