3 Young Girls Killed In Apartment Fire; Mother Critically Injured

Thursday, June 28th 2007, 8:23 pm
By: News On 6

BURTONSVILLE, Md. (AP) _ Fire swept through an apartment early Thursday, killing three young girls and critically injuring their mother while their father was detained on immigration charges, authorities said.

The victims, an infant and her 2-year-old and 4-year-old sisters, were not breathing when firefighters arrived shortly before 5 a.m., Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer said.

Investigators believe the fire started in the kitchen after the woman placed a plastic device used to sterilize baby bottles near the stove, which was on, Piringer said. She then went to sleep and was awoken by a smoke alarm, he said.

She tried to put out the fire by unplugging the sterilizer and throwing some of the burning materials into a bathtub but was overcome by smoke, Piringer said.

Firefighters found the youngest child on a bed, and the woman and two other children on the floor nearby, Piringer said. The children died a short time later and the mother was in critical condition, he said.

The victims were identified as Elsie Nuka, 30; 4-month-old Makenzie Foncham; and 2-year-old Megan and 4-year-old Chanelle. The father, Ignatius Foncham, was not home at the time, officials said.

Foncham was taken into custody May 31 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on immigration charges and is awaiting deportation to his native Cameroon, according to Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman.

ICE is ``working with Foncham to fulfill his needs'' after the fire, she said. The three children were U.S. citizens, Fobbs said, but she did not know Nuka's citizenship.