UPDATE: Woman dies after 3 homes go up in flames on Indy’s far east side


Photo from scene of fire on December 10, 2019

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One woman is dead after three houses went up in flames on the far east side of Indianapolis early Tuesday morning.

The Indianapolis Fire Department was dispatched to the 2600 block of Rothe Lane, near 30th and Cumberland, at 4:19 a.m. for a report of a residence fire with possible entrapment.

When they arrived, they found a single-story house engulfed in flames. Also, the two houses on either side of it were on fire.

Residents in those two homes safely evacuated and were being helped by IFD Victims Assistance and the Red Cross.  However, firefighters were unable to get inside the central home when they first arrived.

“Massive amount of fire they had when they pulled up prohibited them from going in and doing an effective search for about 30 minutes,” said IFD Battalion Chief, Rita Reith.

IFD later located 59-year-old Marsha Karnafel inside the house.  She had passed away.

Reith said Karnafel’s husband is a nurse at Community Hospitals and was at work when the fire broke out.

“He said he spoke to her at about 3:30 this morning and she asked him to bring her home some hot tea, which he frequently did after his shift,” Reith said.  “He was getting ready to do that and then shortly thereafter he got a call saying that the house was on fire.”

Reith said wind played a big factor in spreading the flames. 

“The weather turned bitterly cold this morning, and we’ve had a lot of wind,” Reith said. “The majority of wind pushing to the east contributed to both exposures on either side that caught fire.”

Crews had no access or water issues to deal with, just bitter cold temps and the number of homes involved.

The homeowner told firefighters that his wife was a smoker and due to health reasons, she had mobility issues.  Reith said the house had working smoke alarms.

IMPD records indicate Karnafel had reported a burglary at the home two weeks ago.  Reith said that and any other history at the home would be considered in the fire investigation, which is standard procedure.

Tuesday afternoon, IFD announced the fire had been ruled undetermined in both origin and cause.  

“The home sustained significant damage impeding the ability of investigators to provide an exact origin or cause of the fire,” Reith said in a statement.

About 45 firefighters were on scene battling the structure fires, and they worked to keep the flames from pushing into additional homes.

The Lawrence Fire Department and the Buck Creek Township Fire Department assisted IFD.

City-County Councillor La Keisha Jackson issued the following statement:

"My heart goes out to the families whose lives were upended overnight by this devastating fire.  I am grateful to our dedicated first responders, who answered the call in the early hours this morning to save lives and property.  I will be keeping the families and our first responders lifted in prayer.  Please check on your loved ones, especially our elderly friends and family, as the weather turns colder."

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