Local News

Two Children Die in Raleigh Fire

Posted February 20, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— An attempt to dry clothes in a microwave oven may have led to the deaths of two young children after a fire broke out at their northwest Raleigh townhouse this morning, authorities said.

Officials said 10-year-old Antonio Rice and his sister, Patrice, 5, the children of Anthony and Patricia Rice, died of smoke inhalation.

Officers say no adults were at the home on 4619 Pine Trace Road, off U.S. 70, when they arrived.

Authorities are still investigating the incident, but early reports said the children's mother called the home to check on them after heading to her job at IBM in Research Triangle Park.

When she got no answer, she contacted her estranged husband and asked him to look in on the children. When he arrived, he found the home in northwest Raleigh engulfed in smoke.

Assistant Fire Chief Earl Fowler said the fire may have started in the kitchen around a microwave oven.

``What we found was that, inside the microwave, was clothing burnt to a crisp,'' Fowler said.

``What probably happened was that the microwave was running a little bit longer than they thought and the material caught on fire,'' he said. ``It had two vents in it and there was a lot of combustibles around the microwave, setting them on fire.''

Fowler thinks the microwave generated a lot of heat, burned itself out because of lack of oxygen, then reignited when the elder Rice broke out a window to get to his children in the house.

The body of the boy was found at the base of the stairs with soot covering his hands and knees. Fowler said that indicated the boy attempted to crawl out to escape the smoke. The girl was found in an upstairs bedroom.

As police were roping off the row of units which included the smoke-stained condo, special investigators were looking into why the children were at home by themselves without adult supervision.

Raleigh Police Sgt. G.S. Britt, who works with juveniles, said he would have to review the law as it applies to the incident. State law says children 10 years old and above can stay at home alone and aren't considered at risk for a potential fire hazard. He said there is no initial evidence of abuse or neglect.

``It doesn't appear to be at this time,'' Britt said. ``This seems to be an accidental fire. We don't have anything to show that it was arson or anything of that nature.''

Early Monday, a family of five who moved to their Harnett County rental home on Valentine's Day died early in a fire that neighbors said engulfed the small, wood-frame house in minutes.

The victims were identified as Scott Moon, his wife, Christine, and their three children, Daniel, 7, Kelly, 5, Travis 3.

Also on Thursday, a man was killed and two women were seriously burned in a fire that destroyed two mobile homes in Fuquay-Varina. Preston Council, 56, died in the blaze.