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Multiple pets killed and unaccounted for in near-downtown house fire

INDIANAPOLIS — Two residents of a downtown home were able to escape a smoky blaze early Wednesday–a fire that claimed the lives of their two dogs, and left six cats unaccounted for. A nearby structure was also damaged in the blaze.

Indianapolis firefighters had their hands full with the stubborn fire shortly after 1 a.m. in the 300 block of N. Keystone Ave.  Jason Newlin, 45, and Carla Newlin, 44, were able to escape safely from the two-story structure. Jason awoke to the smell of smoke, according to IFD Battalion Chief Rita Reith. Jason covered his wife’s mouth with a T-shirt and guided her through the thick black smoke, down the stairs and out the front door.

“They are very, very lucky to be alive this morning due to the fact that they woke up with heavy smoke in their house, in their bedroom,” she said. “It’s unclear what started the fire… about the only thing the homeowners can tell us is that they’ve had a couple of electrical issues throughout the week. But they didn’t have any space heaters running, no candles, no food on the stove.”

Reith added that the structure had no working smoke alarms.

Several of the couple’s numerous pets were rescued; others were not so lucky. A pit bull mix named Rico and a border collie shepherd mix name Cheyenne died in the fire. Firefighters were able to rescue seven cats; several of the animals were treated with pet oxygen masks. Additionally, four newborn kittens were brought safely out of the residence by one of the occupants. However, six cats remain unaccounted for at this time.

Damage was estimated at $50,000 to the main structure; $10,000 to the next-door residence.