MAQUOKETA, Iowa (AP) - A cooking fire may have started a blaze
that killed an 8-year-old girl as she hid in her bedroom.
Vick-Ashley Yens was found wrapped in blankets, clutching her
teddy bear, said Maquoketa Fire Chief Mark Beck.
It appeared that the girl had tried to crawl under her bed,
according to Beck.
Firefighters found the four-unit, two-story building in flames
when they arrived at 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
The Jackson County Medical Examiner said Yens probably died of
smoke inhalation in the blaze, which began in her apartment unit
and destroyed most of the building.
Firefighters entered the building within about three minutes,
but the fire had been burning for 10 to 15 minutes, and it was too
late to save the child, Beck said.
Beck said firefighters, using thermal imaging equipment, had a
difficult time finding Yens because she was wrapped in blankets.
But, by the time firefighters arrived, the fire had probably
reached temperatures too high for the girl to survive, he said.
Yens father, Yenster Yens, and everyone else in the building
escaped the blaze after being awakened by neighbors, Beck said.
Yenster Yens was treated for cuts and released. At the time of
the fire, Ashley's mother, Maureen, was working at the Pacific
Coast Feather Co. factory in town, sewing down comforters,
according to Wihden Aise, Ashley's great-uncle. The father works at
Family Dollar distribution center in Maquoketa.
The child's father had to be restrained by police and
firefighters as he tried to run back into the burning building to
save his daughter, Beck said.
Yenster Yens cut his arm as he tried to climb through a window
to get into the building. He was treated at a local hospital and
Beck said the state fire marshal's office is investigating the
cause of fire, but apparently something cooking on the stove
ignited an oven mitt, which hung above the stove, and then fell
into a full trash container.
Aise said he came to Iowa from Micronesia in 1979 and brought
his niece Maureen Yens and her family to the United States four
years ago from the Micronesian island of Pingelap in Pohnpei State.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)