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Fatal fire wasn't arson

By:  Star Beacon - Shelley Terry

ASHTABULA — Firefighters are confident Tuesday morning’s fatal fire on Dunsmore Avenue was not arson, fire officials said Thursday.

While investigators have not made a preliminary ruling on the cause of the fire, it was not set intentionally, said Ashtabula Fire Marshal Capt. Gerald Senger and Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office investigators.

The 18-year-old victim, Michael DeFranco, died of smoke inhalation, according to a preliminary ruling by the Ashtabula County Coroner’s Office.

Ashtabula firefighters were called to 4908 Dunsmore Ave. at about 3 a.m., where DeFranco was trapped in the basement of the one-story duplex home, an area lacking a smoke alarm, officials said. Firefighters immediately advanced a hose line to the basement to search for him. DeFranco was found in the laundry room and was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:21 a.m., officials said. Firefighters said there was only one means of exit from the basement: The stairs inside the duplex.

Two other residents of the home, whose names are not being released, were taken to Ashtabula County Medical Center.

DeFranco is Ashtabula County’s second fire fatality in a week.

John Lowery died Nov. 29 in a Conneaut house fire.

Since Nov. 24, 13 Ohioans, including eight children, have perished in fires, according to fire officials.

Fires kill and injure more people every year than all natural disasters combined and cause almost $12 billion in property losses in Ohio.

Smoke alarms are one of the simplest ways to protect people from fires in the home, but they require maintenance. Firefighters suggest checking the smoke detectors monthly and changing the batteries twice a year. If the smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, replace it with a dual-technology smoke alarm: One that detects smoke and carbon monoxide, which is an odorless killer.

Anyone who cannot afford a smoke alarm can get a free one from the Ashtabula Fire Department on Main Avenue. Stop at the fire department during regular business hours or call (440) 992-7192.

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