MANSFIELD, Ohio (WOIO) - A 3-year-old child died in an early morning house fire Wednesday and officials said it appears the fire was intentionally set at a vacant house next door.
According to officials, the little girl was trapped in an upstairs bedroom at 208 South Foster Street and was unable to be rescued.
Three adults, including a pregnant woman, and four other children were able to escape safely after a neighbor pounded on their door to wake them up.
The pregnant woman was transported to a local hospital after experiencing possible labor pains.
Mansfield police said the fire began around 2:23 a.m. in the vacant home at 212 South Foster St. and flames quickly spread next door.
Witnesses told police a group of youths were seen in and around the vacant home before the fire.
The Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification of the person(s) responsible for the fire.
Mansfield police and fire, the Ohio Fire Marshall and the Richland County Coroner’s Office are handling the investigation.
Zoey Joplin called 911 when she saw the flames. Now, she’s saddened that the fire will forever affect her community.
“It’s honestly scary that little kids out here think that it’s funny to burn down vacant houses, not knowing how it can affect other people’s lives and homes,” she said.
Her neighbor, Cynthia Wells, said, “I’m terrified. There’s more abandoned houses around here, and I’m just terrified for the other families.”
Further troubling residents on Foster Avenue, the fire hydrant closest to the burning homes did not work Tuesday night.
Lt. Dan Crow with the Mansfield Fire Division says firefighters had to connect their hoses to get to one down the street.
Wednesday, 19 News asked him if it the fire would have been taken care of sooner, had the hydrant been working.
He said,"It’s possible, But, our efforts were not to put the fire out necessarily. They were to get in there and search the structure."
The structure where the 3-year-old child desperately needed help is likely a total loss.
Lt. Crow said, “We want to encourage people to come forward, because it is truly one of the most serious cases that we’ve had in a while.”
“I want them caught,” Wells said. “I want justice for that little girl. She deserves it.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Major Crimes Sergeant Matt Loughman at 419-755-9761 or Detective Rick Clapp at 419-755-9470.