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Cause determined in house fire that killed Umatilla couple

UMATILLA, Ore. - Umatilla fire investigators have determined the cause of a house fire that killed a couple.

According to Scott Goff with Umatilla County Fire District #1, a cigarette dropped into a chair in the living room. The couple was near the living room, where the fire started.

Roger Frances and his wife, Ruth, died inside their home at 125 John Day Street on May 12.

Goff said smoke alarms were installed. However, they were not working. He wants to remind everyone to check their smoke alarms and make sure they’re functioning. 

Neighbors say some tried to go inside the house to the save the couple, but couldn’t. Others tried to put out the fire with garden hoses. 

Roger Frances worked for the City of Umatilla as the public works superintendent for 25 years. 

It’s still unclear why the couple was not able to escape the house. 


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