Smoking materials discarded in a trash can caused a house fire early Wednesday in which three people died in south Lexington, said Ed Davis, battalion chief for the Lexington fire department.
Sheila David and Jim Land of Lexington identified the three as their parents, Lenville Lindon, 89, and Norma Jean Lindon, 78, and their brother Kenneth Lindon, 54. Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn confirmed the identities Wednesday afternoon.
Autopsies will not be performed on the three, said Deputy Coroner Al Beatty. The cause of death for each is under investigation pending toxicology results, Beatty said.
Sheila David said both her parents used oxygen. She said her brother was in a wheelchair as a result of a traffic accident a few years ago.
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Lenville Lindon was a retired employee of IBM in Lexington, and Jean Lindon had worked for Fayette County Schools for a time as a crossing guard and a cafeteria worker, she said. David said her parents would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary Thursday.
David said her parents had a winter home in Florida until they had become increasingly homebound.
Jim Land said he went to live with the Lindons when he was about 11, and he considered himself their son.
"Just taking me in kind of shows you the kind of hearts that they had," said Land.
Davis, spokesman for the Lexington Division of Fire, said the blaze was reported at 5:31 a.m. Wednesday. A passerby saw the fire and reported it.
"The way it was told to me, they actually went up and beat on the door" to alert the residents, Davis said.
"When we pulled up, the whole front of the house was on fire," Maj. John Gosper said.
The light-colored brick house with green shutters, a wheelchair ramp and a chimney had two front windows broken where firefighters had tried to get inside. Part of the street in front of the house was cordoned off with yellow tape.
Investigators with Kentucky State Police and the state fire marshal's office assisted Lexington firefighters in going through the house to determine a cause. The consensus of the investigators was that the fire was caused by "improper disposal of smoking materials," Davis said.
Someone put smoking materials into a plastic wastepaper basket in the front room of the house, Davis said. That living room was being used as a bedroom, Davis said.
"It caught that front room on fire and it spread pretty quickly throughout the house," Davis said.
All three residents "had some physical limitations, and we believe that hindered them getting out," Davis said. "We did find evidence that all three made an attempt to get out. ... They appeared to have gotten out of beds and appeared to have tried to make their way out of the building or down the hallway.
"But by the time they tried to get out, the fire was pretty far advanced," Davis said.
Investigators could not find a smoke detector in the house, Davis said.
The last fatal house fire in Lexington happened in December 2011, when a 54-year-old woman in a wheelchair died of smoke inhalation on Copper Run, Davis said. But he said Wednesday's fire was "almost identical" to a fire in June 2011 that killed George McDaniel, 85, a retired battalion chief with the fire department and a nephew of former Lexington Fire Chief Earl McDaniel,
The cause there "was smoking materials discarded into a plastic wastepaper basket, and it had melted, caught fire and burned a hole through the floor," Davis said. "And in that one we did not find a working smoke detector, either. It was very, very similar in nature."
Davis reiterated that the Lexington Division of Fire will provide and install a smoke detector to anyone who wants one. "All they need to do is call 311 and tell them they need to talk to the fire department about a smoke detector, and we'll come out and put it in," Davis said.
Earlier Wednesday, several residents stood outside while investigators searched the home and the surrounding area for evidence.
Wayne Rickert, 69, said he lives next door to the family.
"They were good people. I'd see them every now and then. Most of the time they were inside," Rickert said. "They were nice, quiet neighbors. They had a lot of extended family that would come over and visit with them — go to the grocery for them, take them to their doctors' visits and so forth."
David said her parents and brother had health care providers who helped them, in addition to the help the family provided.
David is the executive director of the Makenna Foundation, which raises money for the University of Kentucky Children's Hospital and other efforts in the memory of her daughter, Makenna Lee David.
Makenna was diagnosed with pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, a rare lung disorder, and died on Dec. 4, 1998, four months shy of her second birthday.
David noted Wednesday that the deaths of her parents and brother were just a day after the anniversary of her daughter's death.
Rickert said he woke up about 5:45 a.m. Wednesday and saw a light shining. "By the time I got halfway through the house, I started seeing the red and blue lights, and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, something's happened over there.' When I got to the side door, I saw the smoke pouring out."
Rickert said his initial thought was, "It's on fire and they're trapped."
"I knew that none of them were really capable of scampering out of the place," Rickert said. "It's a loss. It's a loss. It's tough."
Funeral arrangements for the Lindons are pending.