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Fire that killed Frankfort infant ruled accidental, likely started by space heater

Posted at 2:13 PM, Dec 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-03 14:00:12-05

FRANKFORT — The fire that killed an 8-month-old boy in Frankfort Monday morning has been ruled accidental.

Firefighters in Clinton County responded to the home in the 1300 block of West Jefferson Street around 10 a.m., according to Frankfort Fire Chief John Kirby.

A father and two young children were able to escape the fire, but the father was unable to get to his infant son before the fire took over.

Kirby said Frankfort police officers were already on the scene and trying to get into the home when firefighters arrived. Because of the intensity of the fire and the smoke, they were unable to get inside to rescue the infant.

After firefighters made entrance into the home they found the 8-month-old unresponsive inside another room. The infant was brought out to medics, but they were unable to revive him.

Deacon James Hunter Mills was killed in the fire, according to the Clinton County Coroner's Office. The cause of death has not been determined, pending an autopsy and toxicology reports. An autopsy is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office.

The father, his two young children and a police officer were all taken to IU Health to be treated for smoke inhalation.

On Monday evening, the officer was released from the hospital, according to a tweet from the police department.

Lead investigator Jeremy Ward ruled the fire accidental saying, “The fire originated in a first-floor bedroom and was likely caused by a portable space heater.”

"When something like this happens in a small community, it breaks everyone's hearts," Kirby said. "It hits close to home. We have a lot of firefighters and police officers with young kids. No matter what role you had working the fire it impacts you."

Kirby said they will have counselors on hand for the officers, firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers who were involved in the fire response.

Clothing and food donations are being collected for the family, according to a Facebook post from the Clinton County Sheriff's Office.