HUTCHINSON, Kansas – The house fire that claimed the lives of two people, including an 11-year-old girl, was deliberately set, according to a statement released by the Reno County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday. The statement also said a 14-year-old has been arrested in connection to the case.
It happened early Thursday morning at 19th and Main at home. The names of the victims haven’t been officially released.
Fire officials tell KSN a father and his son made it out of the home. “The mother and daughter were found upstairs after we got most of the fire knocked down,” says Hutchinson Fire Chief Kim Forbes. “It was extremely hot and there was a lot of fire. A lot of smoke on the second floor.”
Neighbors say the family was quiet, but seemed happy. “They spent a lot of time with the kids,” says neighbor Aaron Miller. “Very nice people. Just good parents. They are outside a lot and busy with the kids.”
Superintendent of schools at Buhler, Mike Berblinger, says they will have counselors at the school on Friday. “We know kids will have some things to work through. This will be a tough time,” says Berblinger. “We will have a crisis team at Prosperity school and the high school.”
The 11-year-old who died went to Prosperity school. The 14-year-old son goes to Buhler High School. “We will have counselors for students and staff,” explains Berblinger. “It’s a tragic time. Our thoughts and prayers go to the family.”
The mother was transported to a Wichita hospital in critical condition. She died just before 4 p.m. Thursday.
The father and his son escaped without injury and were taken to a Hutchinson hospital for brief observation.
While fire investigators, the ATF, and state fire marshal continue to pinpoint the exact cause of the blaze, the fire chief in Hutchinson says several drivers on the street first noticed the fire.
“One of them called it in,” says Forbes. A neighbor tells KSN she woke up after hearing screams next door.
She ran out to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the porch and windows.