Authorities found three bodies Saturday in the ruins of a burned home in rural Madison County.
The identities of the three will not be confirmed until autopsies are conducted, which could take place Sunday, said Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison.
The three all appeared large enough to be adults, Cornelison said, but he could not determine their sex at the scene.
Kentucky State Police and the state fire marshal's office had not confirmed the cause of the fire Saturday, but it appeared that it started from an effort to heat the house, Trooper Robert Purdy said.
It's possible the people in the house were trying to heat it with wood. There was no electricity to the house, said Barbara Tate, who owned it with her husband, Curtis Tate.
Cornelison said he saw firewood at the house, a single-story structure on Oakley Wells Road in the northeast part of the county.
Cornelison said he heard nothing on Saturday to indicate the fire was anything other than an accident.
The fire was reported late Friday. The house was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Capt. Tim Gray of the Madison County Fire Department said a dozen firefighters from that department and the Union City Volunteer Fire Department responded.
Authorities had no reason to think anyone was in the house, and so didn't immediately search after the blaze.
Saturday morning, however, someone who went by the ruins saw what he thought could be a body and reported it, Cornelison said.
Firefighters and the coroner found the bodies.
Tate said she and her husband were devastated by the deaths.
Some people had wanted to rent the house, but it had no electricity or water and needed work inside, she said.
The people planned to work on the house and get it ready to live in, but the Tates had not yet rented it to them, Barbara Tate said.
As a result, no one was supposed to be living at the house, but it's possible the people didn't have anywhere else to stay, she said.
"It's just a really, really sad thing," she said. "It just breaks your heart."
Purdy estimated that 15 people died in house fires in the last week as bone-chilling cold gripped the state.
The three deaths in Madison County come just days after a blaze in Muhlenberg County killed a mother and eight children.
Officials said that fire started as a result of something that could burn being placed too close to an electric heater.
That is one of the leading causes of fatal house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
From 2007 through 2011, space heaters accounted for 81 percent of all residential fire deaths, according to the association.
In most cases, the fires resulted from combustible material such as bedding, clothes or upholstered furniture being too close to the heater.
Space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall outlet — not an extension cord — and kept at least 3 feet away from combustible material, according to information on the website of the Kentucky fire marshal's office.
Other safety tips include using only portable space heaters that have an automatic shut-off; making sure your smoke detectors work; having your furnace inspected and serviced; and having chimneys and vents inspected and cleaned.
Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1