By Ashley Luthern
For the second time in less than a year, a house fire in the city claimed multiple victims including children.
Two adults, Edtwan Kimble, 32, and Yolanda Holmes, 38; and two children, Mari’auna Holmes, 12, and Marniece Holmes, 9, died Saturday during a fire at their home at 160 Austin Ave. NW.
“It is a sad day for Warren. Our arms are open, and if they need us, we’ll be there to help them along the way to go through this period,” said Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at large.
Fire Chief Ken Nussle said the blaze began about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.
“The  caller indicated she was burning up, so the firefighters knew they had occupants,” Nussle said.
When firefighters arrived two minutes after the call, the entire second floor of the home was engulfed and flames were in the first-floor kitchen, the chief said.
Once inside, firefighters did a search and found the adults and children, deceased, in two bedrooms on the second floor, Nussle said.
“No working smoke detectors were found,” he said.
The chief said this fire resembles a June 16, 2011, fatal fire that occurred on Landsdowne Avenue Northwest, which killed two adults and four children.
“They’re very similar in nature. You have a large loss of life and both started in the early morning,” and in both cases there weren’t working smoke detectors, Nussle said.
The same crew that responded to the Landsdowne fire also was on duty Saturday morning.
“It was the same team. They’ve encountered 10 fatalities in two fires,” Nussle said.
For Rucker, the most striking similarity is the lack of working smoke detectors, something she discussed with Austin Avenue residents Saturday. “I was out there on the streets [Saturday morning], and the neighborhood is predominately renter. I’m not sure if this family is or not. But at each house I went to, I asked them if they had smoke detectors. They all had one or less,” she said.
After the Landsdowne fire, city officials and organizations launched a campaign and distributed hundreds of smoke detectors to city residents. Rucker said she will visit the fire department Monday to see if there are detectors left that she can take over to the neighborhood.
“There is a city ordinance that houses have to be inspected and all detectors must be hot-wired into the house,” Rucker said. “I think we need to do a better job of getting a message to the homeowners, even those that rent out homes, that they have some responsibility. This is just crucial.”
Heidi Iler has lived on Austin Avenue since 1976 and said the street is no stranger to fire.
Years ago, two houses near the corner of Austin Avenue and West Market Street burned, and the house at 170 Austin Ave. — next door to the house in Saturday’s blaze — went up in flames, an apparent case of arson.
Iler said Saturday’s fire across the street from her home was “a shock.”
“I heard dogs barking and I saw light outside. Then I heard a woman scream and looked out a window to see 30- to 40-foot flames shooting out of the house,” she said.
Iler said she didn’t know the family well but enough to say hello when their paths crossed.
“I knew they had a couple of girls, and they all seemed very nice,” she said.
Rucker said many neighbors were distraught and that she wants to see counseling provided to them and also in the schools where the two girls attended classes.
“I did talk to neighbors who were very upset, and then I talked to neighbors who say their children and grandchildren went to school with them,” she said.
Rucker said she didn’t know the family personally but was aware that Yolanda Holmes tried to get a permit for Clancy’s Pub, 2416 Youngstown Road SE, but it was recently turned down. Stanley Thomas, 37, the pub’s co-manager, was shot and killed Oct. 17 outside the club.
“It’s just tragic. We don’t know much about the fire. It’s a sad situation, and we’re going to have to wait and see what the fire department says,” Rucker said.
The department and the state fire marshal are continuing their investigations into the origin and cause of the blaze, Nussle said. The fire department might have a ruling by early next week.
“We don’t know where the fire originated, but it did spread rapidly,” he said.