Ohio Apartment Fire Kills 10; Arson Probed

A suspected arson (search) fire raced through an apartment complex in suburban Columbus on Sunday, killing 10 people in one apartment and forcing others to jump from third-story windows to escape.

At least 53 people were left homeless by the fire in Prairie Township (search), which destroyed the building's roof and third floor, melted siding and left its wooden skeleton exposed.

Antonio Noriega said firefighters pulled him from a ladder as he tried to rescue his brothers and nephews.

"My family is dead," Noriega said. Eight of his relatives and two friends lived together and Noriega did not believe any of them made it out of the building.

The fire came just six weeks after three fires were set in the same building in an empty apartment and hallway, said Fire Chief Steve Feustel. There were no suspects and no known witnesses to Sunday's suspected arson, he said.

The victims, including a child, lived on the third floor and tried to escape, Feustel said.

"They were out of their beds. They didn't die in their sleep," he said.

Two people, including a woman who jumped from a window, were being treated at Mount Carmel West hospital, Feustel said. Their conditions were still being assessed, a nursing supervisor said.

Residents of the gutted 24-unit building stood vigil outside — some wrapped in blankets, some quietly sobbing. Dozens more joined them as news spread.

The fire started about 2:30 a.m. in the basement or the first floor, but the cause was not known, Feustel said. He said the fire burned fiercely in a hallway, blocking people from escaping.

Pascasie Mulanigulwa, who lives in the next building, was awakened by the light through her bedroom window. "I saw people jumping down out of the third floor. It was terrible," she said.

The American Red Cross (search) was handing out water, coffee and doughnuts, and helping residents find temporary housing Sunday.

Noriega said his family members were all immigrants from Mexico who came to Columbus four years ago. Many in the family worked together at a landscaping company.

"My family, they're sleeping and the fire is coming fast," he said. "I can't help my brothers."

A hydrant that had been knocked over delayed getting water to fight the fire, which was already shooting through the roof when crews arrived, Feustel said.

"These people were probably already down by the time fire crews were on the scene," he said.