FREMONT - A fire at an east Fremont duplex late Monday night killed a 5-year-old boy, and authorities yesterday were questioning the boyfriend of the victim's mother in connection with the blaze.
Fire Chief Dan DeVanna and Keith Loreno, an investigator for the state fire marshal's office, said the blaze that killed Robert Hodge appeared to be an accidental fire that began in the kitchen on the second floor of the duplex at 642 Sixth St.
However, Mr. Loreno and two Fremont police detectives spent more than an hour yesterday afternoon speaking with Raymond Simmons, 46, outside the duplex and inside the burned-out second-floor unit where he lived with his girlfriend and her four children, including Robert.
Later, Detectives T.J. Woolf and Tony Emrich took Mr. Simmons to the police station for further questioning. Mr. Simmons later was allowed to leave.
Detective Emrich would not say why Mr. Simmons was questioned. "The case will be presented to the prosecutor's office when it's completed for further review," the detective said.
Mr. Simmons was treated at Fremont Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation and burns suffered in the blaze, Chief DeVanna said. Robert's mother, Tamika Ervin, 29, and three of her other children - Rinna Simmons, 11 months; Shamaria Ervin, 9, and Shada Davis, 10, were checked at the Fremont hospital after fleeing the burning duplex, Chief DeVanna said. None of them was hurt seriously. The occupant of the first-floor unit, Gloria Orosco, escaped unharmed.
Firefighters were called to the wood-frame structure at 10:08 p.m. Monday and saw flames coming from the second-floor windows, Chief DeVanna said. Firefighters found Robert unconscious on the floor of one of the two bedrooms.
Paramedics tried to revive him, and an ambulance took him to Fremont Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy was to be performed by the Lucas County Coroner's Office. Results were unavailable yesterday.
Chief DeVanna said investigators believe the blaze started while Mr. Simmons was boiling oil to fry chicken on a stove. "It appears to be a grease fire," he said. "She was a hot one."
The blaze caused extensive fire damage in the kitchen area, and heat and smoke damage through the rest of the second floor, Chief DeVanna said. He estimated the total damage at $50,000.
Ms. Ervin said she put her children to bed about 8 p.m., went to sleep about an hour later, and was awakened by the frantic shouts of her boyfriend of five years. She said she jumped out of bed, picked up her baby daughter, and ran downstairs, thinking that her three other children were behind her. But when she got outside, Robert was nowhere to be found.
"I just grabbed the baby, and I thought everybody was out," Ms. Ervin said, her eyes downcast as she held Rinna while standing outside the partially burned-out duplex. "And I saw the two girls, but I didn't see the little boy. I tried to go back in but the stairway was on fire."
The tragedy marked the second time in less than a year that Ms. Ervin lost a child. Her newborn son Rayshawn Simmons, Rinna's twin, died Aug. 30, 2004, of sudden infant death syndrome, she said. Mr. Simmons is the father of the twins.
Ms. Ervin and her three surviving children are staying with a friend, Norma Tritch.
Contact Steve Murphy at: