Michigan City, Indiana Fire That Killed Three Children Ruled Accidental

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) -- Investigators believe a weekend fire that killed three children trapped inside their home was accidental, a fire official said.

Flames were shooting out of the roof and windows of the two-story wooden home by the time firefighters arrived Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

The children's mother, Julie Steffen, was burned and was injured when she jumped out of a window to escape the flames. Firefighters found the youngest child in an upstairs bedroom and the two others in a ground-floor toy room.

Aiden White, 2, Anthony White, 20 months, and Mark Steffen, 7 months, died at St. Anthony Memorial Medical Center of smoke inhalation, said Mark Huffman, a LaPorte County deputy coroner.

Jeff Rosebloom, a state fire marshal's office detective, said Julie Steffen was attending to her youngest son when she smelled smoke. She opened a window, then tried to go down the single stairwell, but smoke and fire forced her back, he said.

``It appears the (two older) children ignited a combustible in the living room while the mother was upstairs,'' Rosebloom said.

Steffen was listed in fair condition Monday at St. Anthony in the city along Lake Michigan about 20 miles east of Gary.

``She injured her back pretty severely when she jumped out,'' Huffman said. ``She barely made it out. It was just a real bad thing all around.''

A witness told police officers that the children's father arrived home after the fire started but was unable to enter the home. Police said he had gone to a store to buy diapers.