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Deaths of 5 young sisters in Alaska fire ruled accidental

FILE - This Sept. 7, 2017, file photo shows the burned out remains of a trailer where five sisters died near Palmer, Alaska. The Alaska Fire Marshal on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2017, said the cause of the was accidental and cooking related. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
September 14, 2017 - 6:23 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A mobile home fire in Alaska that claimed the lives of five young sisters started in the kitchen when both parents weren't at home, but there's no evidence it was electrical, fire officials said Thursday.

Fire Marshal David Tyler said at a news conference that the origin of the accidental fire on Sept. 7 was easy to pinpoint because all markers led back to the kitchen.

However, he declined to say if the fire started in the stove or if some other type of cooking apparatus was being used.

"There's things that we know we're not ready to discuss yet," he said.

More details will be included in a final report on the fire, but Tyler said he couldn't provide a timeline on its release.

Tyler did say no foul play is suspected.

"Absolutely not," he said when asked if any charges were being considered.

The family had complained of sparking outlets and faulty wiring in the rented mobile home, but Tyler said investigators have determined those issues were not factors in the fire.

The home is located in a small trailer park, just off a major road in an undeveloped area about 45 miles (72 kilometres) northeast of Anchorage.

The area is known as the Butte and accessible by an old highway that takes traffic between Anchorage and Palmer.

Asked why mobile homes burn so hot and fast, Tyler said it's because they are essentially a tube. The thin walls provide ventilation, and the cheap building materials from the 1960s and 1970s fuel the fire.

There's no indication the mobile home had working smoke detectors, but Tyler said they could have been destroyed in the blaze.

The girls died of smoke inhalation, the State Medical Examiner's Office said. They were identified as Alexis Quakenbush, 12, Nevaeh Flores, 8, Lilyanna Flores, 7, Sofia Flores, 6, Jaelynn Flores, 3, all of Palmer.

The girls' father, Jimmy Flores, had left early that day to train as a school bus driver, his brother Armando Astorga told Anchorage television station KTVA.

The girls' mother, Janelle Quakenbush, left Alexis in charge while she went on a five-minute trip to drive her mother home, Astorga said. The trailer was in flames when she returned.

Tyler said the parents haven't been interviewed by fire investigators yet to allow them time to mourn.

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Follow Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen at https://twitter.com/MThiessen

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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