Officials on Tuesday continued to investigate the cause of a fire that gutted a Westville mobile home Monday. They did not rule out the possibility a child playing with a cigarette lighter could have caused it.
David Kelly, 23, who helped his three nephews out of the burning home, said from his hospital bed that he woke up on the living room couch with the couch on fire.
Kelly suffered burns to his hands getting his three nephews, ages 2, 3 and 5, out of the Westville Estates residence.
"I woke up to the kids screaming, the sizzling and the smoke," said Kelly, who was in the burn unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne.
Firefighters found the mobile home engulfed in flames about 9:30 a.m. and doused two neighboring mobile homes to keep the heat from catching them on fire.
Kelly was in the home with the children while their mother, Krystal Stidham, was working at a LaPorte nursing home.
It's fortunate Kelly woke up because there were no smoke detectors in the home, said Mike Raymer, fire investigator for LaPorte County police.
With the front door blocked by flames, Kelly said he could feel his adrenalin pumping when he gathered up the children and carried them out the back door.
One of his nephews, though, ran back inside the burning home, he said.
Kelly said he ran in a second time and brought him back out.
"Of course I had to go back in and get him out of the fire again," Kelly said.
He said he went back in a few more times with buckets that he filled with water outside to try to put out the flames.
Raymer said it appears the fire began on the couch.
He said Stidham revealed at least one of her children has had a tendency of grabbing and playing with lighters or matches.
"That's probably a very good possibility," Raymer said.
Raymer said another possible cause of the fire is an electrical outlet behind the couch.
Kelly said he doesn't expect to be in the hospital long and is receiving medication for pain.
When told he is being called a hero, Kelly shrugged off those claims.
"Yeah. That's what I've heard. I don't know," he said.
The family did not have insurance.