Child playing with lighter likely led to fire
Family struggles with grief after boy’s death in blaze
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A Salt Lake house fire that left 31 people homeless and a 4-year-old boy dead is believed to have been started by a child playing with a lighter, authorities said yesterday.
The Likini Street blaze started Wednesday in one of two back bedrooms of the house, while the child's body was found in a room across the hall behind a closed door, said Honolulu Fire Capt. Frank Johnson.
"We're not sure who it was who was playing with the lighter," he said. "It could be the child that passed."
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake family is mourning the loss of John Rex Ceasar, whom they identified as the boy who died.
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As fire investigators dug through ashes and debris, Tantar Ceasar and his relatives sat under the sun yesterday, staring grimly at the ground.
The smell of the fatal house fire still lingered.
The 22-year-old man rushed home from his work at a Waikiki ABC Store on Wednesday afternoon to find that he had lost almost everything he owned: TVs, clothes, cash -- and his 4-year-old nephew, John Rex Ceasar.
Even all the photos of the boy were burned.
"My sister was still crying today," Ceasar said of the boy's 31-year-old mother, Atnes Ceasar. "Since last night."
The boy died in the blaze, which destroyed the three-bedroom home at 4411 Likini St. in Salt Lake. The Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office said the boy died of smoke inhalation due to a house fire.
Ceasar said five families lived in the house, all from Chuuk, formerly Truk, in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The American Red Cross is assisting as many as 31 people displaced by the fire, including 15 children whose ages range from 4 months to 13 years. The families were given food, clothing, shelter, crisis counseling and teddy bears for the children.
The Fire Department determined a child playing with a lighter caused the fire that led to $255,000 in damage. Fire officials said the fire started in a back bedroom and that John Ceasar ran from the room into a different room and closed the door.
He was reported missing shortly after the fire started. His body was found in the bedroom across from where the fire started after it had been extinguished.
Ceasar said the family is staying in a nearby hotel and has not been able to think about what will happen next because everyone is still stricken with grief. John also is survived by a 7-year-old sister.
The uncle described John as being a playful boy who loved the outdoors and cartoons.
"He was really smart," Ceasar said. "We all still feel so bad about this."