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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2008

Mobile home fire kills family of 5 in Ada, Ohio

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ada-Liberty Township Fire Chief Jay Epley said firefighters arrived to find 20-foot-high flames shooting from the laundry room of the home rented by the Farkasdi family. The victims were found in the bedrooms and nearby hallway and are believed to have died from smoke inhalation. There were no working smoke detectors at the scene of the blaze, which was ruled accidental. Ada-Liberty Township Fire Chief Jay Epley said firefighters arrived to find 20-foot-high flames shooting from the laundry room of the home rented by the Farkasdi family. The victims were found in the bedrooms and nearby hallway and are believed to have died from smoke inhalation. There were no working smoke detectors at the scene of the blaze, which was ruled accidental.
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ADA, Ohio - A year ago, Tina Ashbrook lived in the mobile home where a fire broke out yesterday, killing a young family of five.

She had feared such a tragedy would occur and said she'd warned her friends who lived there about her concerns.

"There is a lot of faulty wiring in there," Ms. Ashbrook claimed. "I had told them: Don't operate the stove and the dryer at the same time because they're hooked up on the same line."

Her worst fears were realized when a neighbor knocked on her door about 4:45 a.m. and alerted her to the blaze at the mobile home rented by Thomas and Shirley Farkasdi.

Firefighters arriving at the mobile home on East Lehr Avenue found 20-foot-high flames shooting from the laundry room at the home's east end, said Ada-Liberty Township Fire Chief Jay Epley.

Investigators with the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, who arrived about 7:50 a.m., determined the fire was accidental.

"The investigation indicates it was electrical in nature," said Matt Mullins, a spokesman for the fire marshal.

Chief Epley said when firefighters broke into the home, they found Mr. Farkasdi, 39; Mrs. Farkasdi, 35, and their 4-month-old son, Joseph William, dead. The couple's two daughters, Jessica, 7, and Tiffany, 6, were rushed to Lima Memorial Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

Jeanne Inmon, an investigator with the Hardin County Coroner's Office, said it appeared the family members died from smoke inhalation, although autopsies were to be performed by the Montgomery County Coroner's Office in Dayton.

Neighbor Pelma Rettig said she awoke and saw the flames just as a police officer was arriving at the Farkasdis' home.

"I told him little children are inside - three little children, two girls and a baby boy," she said. "I heard him say he couldn't get in. It was horrible."

Chief Epley said firefighters experienced heavy heat and smoke when they broke into the mobile home to search for the occupants. The victims were found in the bedrooms and hallway near the bedrooms at the west end of the home.

"This is my 30th year as chief and I've never experienced a fatal fire," he said. "I've gone back in the records - back to the '30s - and I didn't find any record of a fatality from a fire in this community. So this is the first and the worst."

Firefighters from the nearby villages of Alger, McGuffey, and Dunkirk assisted the volunteer Ada department with the blaze.

Jessica was a first-grade student at Ada Elementary School, where Tiffany was in kindergarten, said Principal Robin

VanBuskirk.

"We have grief counselors on site to help the students in those classrooms and all the classrooms," she said. "We've tried to conduct the day as routinely as possible It's a tragedy for our community and for our school community."

Ada, a community of 5,582, is located about 65 miles south of Toledo.

Friends said Mr. Farkasdi was employed at the Taco Bell in Ada and his wife stayed home with their children.

"She just took care of those kids, and she did a fine job," Ms. Rettig said, adding that she would see Mrs. Farkasdi pulling them in a wagon. "She was very attentive to them."

Ms. Ashbrook's fiance, William McCrary, said that over the winter he had fixed frozen water pipes for the Farkasdis.

He said the home should have been equipped with smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher, but he said it didn't have either.

Ms. Ashbrook said there were no smoke detectors there when she rented the mobile home last year, and the exit door nearest the bedrooms was sealed off, leaving just one way out.

"I just knew it was going to happen sooner or later," she said. "It could've happened to anyone who moved in there."

Chief Epley said there were no working smoke detectors found at the scene of the fire.

"We found a base, but we didn't find anything else of a detector," he said. "There wasn't any evidence of any working smoke detectors."

Regarding the sealed door, the chief said: "There was nothing blocking it, but it was sealed shut - weather-proofed - so it was not functioning."

The chief said the mobile home looked to be about 35 years old.

Chief Epley identified the owner as Charles Sizemore, of Ada. Mr. Sizemore could not be reached for comment last night.

Ms. Rettig, who works at Northern on Main, a popular lunch and coffee shop across from Ohio Northern University, said she knew what she would do when she went to work.

"I'm going to tell everyone I see: Check your smoke alarm, hug your children, tell them you love them," Ms. Rettig said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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