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Lantern Fire Kills Amish Family

With permission from the AP

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio - A wood-burning stove ignited kerosene leaking from a lantern that had been knocked over, causing a fire in a Geauga County farmhouse that killed an Amish family of three, authorities determined Sunday.

"It was accidental. It appears to be one of their lanterns tipped over and broke," said Scott Anderson, chief of the Middlefield Volunteer Fire Department.

Anderson declined to release the identities of the victims, but said they were a married couple in their 70s and their daughter in her 50s.

Firefighters responding to the scene about 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4., found the bodies in a front room of the two-story wood house in rural Huntsburg Township, an a northeast Ohio Amish community where people shun modern conveniences such as electricity as part of their religious faith.

"The Amish don't have telephones, but they have shared community phones, and a neighbor used one to make the call," said Deputy John Hiscox, a Sheriff's Department spokesman.

"It was an extremely hot and quick fire," Hiscox said. "The house had a slate roof so the fire could not burn through the roof."

Houses in the community about 30 miles east of Cleveland typically are heated with wood-burning stoves, and kerosene lanterns are sometimes used for light.

Anderson said that the family had been using a large lantern when it appears that a brass part of it broke off, allowing the kerosene to leak out in the living room.

"It was an older style unit, and could have been homemade," Anderson said.

Bill Poole, mayor of nearby Middlefield village, said the fire nearly gutted the structure.

"The main portion of the home looks pretty well gone," Poole said.