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Fire that killed 4 ruled accidental

Fire chief says cause not yet determined

Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Investigators have determined that Saturday's trailer fire that caused the deaths of a Kenai woman and her three children was accidental.

Christina Hunt, 31, and her children, Judy Jones, 13, Frank Hunt Jr., 7, and Ryan Hunt, 4, died of smoke inhalation. Hunt's husband, Frank Hunt Sr., was the sole survivor.

The Kenai Fire Department, Kenai Police Department and representatives from the state medical examiner's office and state fire marshal's office completed their initial investigation at 2 p.m. Tuesday but have been unable to determine a cause.

Kenai Fire Chief Mike Tilly said even though the cause of the fire may not be determined until next Monday or Tuesday, the department's investigation concluded the fire started in the living room.

"The father was inside the building in bed," he said. "(He was) alerted by the smoke detector. That's how we determined there was a smoke detector in the house."

The victims were asleep when the fire broke out, Tilly said. Three in one bedroom and one in another. Tilly said the conclusion that the fire started in the living room of the trailer says a lot about how the fire acted and what the conditions were like inside. In a small structure, he said, time becomes compressed very quickly.

The medical examiner maintained control of the fire scene until investigators could determine it wasn't a crime scene. The fire department will continue its investigation until it can determine what caused the fire.

Glen Szymoniak, assistant superintendant with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, said Jones and Frank Hunt Jr. went to local public schools and resources will be available for grief counseling when their friends return from spring break.

Szymoniak said Kenai Middle School Principal Paul Sorenson and Soldotna Elementary School Principal Carolyn Cannava are collaborating with school counselors, nurses and psychologists to have a team ready to assist with any grief students close to the two children may be going through.

"Whenever we find out that a student or students may be experiencing any kind of traumatic experience, then we make arrangements for extra counseling or have a plan so we can offer counseling to the students," he said.

"It's never easy dealing with this sort of tragedy. It's just a sad deal whenever we lose any of our students. I feel real sad for their friends that have to go through this."

Even though firefighters have concluded their initial investigation, Tilly said the owner of the building was bringing a private investigator in to conduct his own investigation.

"If we get together with the private investigator (it is) very helpful to compare our notes to see if our theory lines up with his," Tilly said.

There were residents living in the apartment adjacent to the trailer, but they were able to exit the structure quickly, he said.

Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to any other structures. Frank Hunt Sr. currently is staying with family.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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