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Space heater located too close to flammable materials caused deadly fire in Shaker Heights, says fire chief

A 2019 rental inspection report lists 6 pages of violations the city says were not addressed
Posted at 2:43 PM, Dec 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-22 18:34:14-05

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — A space heater located too close to materials that could easily catch fire is the cause of yesterday’s deadly house fire in Shaker Heights, according to the city's fire chief.

One woman died in the fire, and six other people survived.

Chief Patrick Sweeney said there was more than one space heater being used to keep warm and that the investigation will zero in on the electrical wiring.

"The furnace wasn't working, and they were using space heaters as their primary heating source for the first floor,” Sweeney said.

Space heaters are now evidence for investigators.

Sweeney says four to five space heaters were being used on the first floor and were plugged into electrical cords and power strips.

"Some of those were daisy-chained together," Sweeney said.

After we spoke with the chief, the city sent us a 2019 rental inspection detailing six pages worth of violations. These included a need for photoelectric smoke detectors, the removal of kitchen appliances from an upstairs floor, and the discontinuation of the use of extension cords.

The city issued a violation notice to the owner. A second notice went out in 2020 showing the violations had not been corrected. The city says it has yet to hear from the owner.

New video shared with News 5 showed the intensity of the fire on Strathavon road, which you can see in this photo.

Deadly fire in Shaker Hts.

A neighbor who called 911 says fire crews got there fast and that almost as soon as he ended the call, he could hear the sirens.

A woman on the third floor died in the fire. Sweeney believes she tried to escape after being warned by a neighbor.

"We think she became disoriented and was trying to get out and we found her in the basement of the home,” Sweeney said.

Cyrus Ganaway was on the second floor with his girlfriend and dog. His girlfriend jumped through a side window and he followed after tossing their dog to safety.

"She jumped out and downstairs they were busting out the glass to get the other kids out,” said Ganaway.

Sweeney says a man and his two toddlers got out of the first-floor apartment where the fire started in a back bedroom.

Our report from the day of the fire:

1 dead, others displaced, from house fire in Shaker Heights

He says the man’s wife and their two other children weren’t home.

Ganaway told News 5 the heat had been off for days.

"We found that there was space heaters being used throughout the entire structure,” Sweeney said.

News 5 Investigators reached out to Shaker Heights Building and Housing, and we’re trying to find the landlord.

Sweeney says the State Fire Marshal’s office has been told about the deadly fire. A regional investigation team is the lead.

"With an electrically supplied heating appliance we're certainly going to zero in on the electrical distribution of the home,” Sweeney said.

The chief says space heaters are supposed to be plugged directly into outlets and kept at a distance from things like beds and blankets.

"Space heaters are not meant to be a sole source of heating appliances for a house,” Sweeney said.

If you’re tripping breakers, that’s a warning sign, he said, that the home wiring system is overloaded.

We asked if the breakers were tripping at this house.

“The resident did tell us they were having some issues with the breakers,” Sweeney said.

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