A tragic oversight might have been involved in the deaths of two young girls in a fire last week, an official said Tuesday.
Ashlynn Slaybaugh, 4, and Alessandra Slaybaugh, 3, might have started the fire using a cigarette lighter that was accidentally left in their bedroom by their mother, Mulvane Public Safety Director Dave Williams said.
The mother, Kristina Slaybaugh, said she forgot to take a lighter she had set with a cell phone on a dresser in her daughters' bedroom, Williams said.
The girls' parents said they had tried to keep their lighters away from their daughters, he said.
Investigators have determined that the girls were playing in their bedroom with the door shut when the fire broke out around 12:40 p.m. on Feb. 8. They had been making a tent by putting a sheet over their bunk beds.
"We just got a feeling that for light, they got a lighter," Williams said.
"It seems plausible that they may have accidentally set something on fire, and it got out of control."
Initially, investigators suspected that the furnace might be to blame, based on the burn pattern. But now, the furnace seems unlikely to be the cause, Williams said.
It appears that a "flashover" occurred in the closed back bedroom where the girls played — in which something smoldered until the heat reached an ignition point.
Flames had engulfed the children's bedroom within six minutes of the emergency call, Williams said. It does not appear that there were any smoke alarms in the house, he said.
The flames were contained mainly to the bedroom; the rest of the home mainly had heavy smoke damage.
The girls' older brother was at school at the time. The girls' mother had started to take a nap when she smelled smoke. The girls' father, Kristian Slaybaugh, has said he had just fallen asleep during a nap and couldn't get to the girls because of intense heat and smoke.
Investigators have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of the deaths, but they appear to be fire-related, Williams said Tuesday. Although autopsies have been conducted, investigators are waiting on toxicology results.
Investigators still have a few interviews to do, Williams said. Local, state and federal agencies have assisted in the investigation.
The tragedy has taken a toll on the Slaybaughs' neighbors as well.
Christy Blochlinger said the girls' mother ran next door to her house after the fire broke out and screamed that her "babies were still inside."
"She was just hysterical," Blochlinger said.
When the girls' father broke their window from the outside, flames "just poured out," Blochlinger said.
"We never heard the girls.
"It was a nightmare, absolute nightmare."
Blochlinger said that Ashlynn and Alessandra "were like mine." They played at her house and helped themselves to snacks in her refrigerator.
Two days before the fire, Ashlynn celebrated her birthday, and Blochlinger bought her cupcakes. That night, Ashlynn told her, "I love you."
"That was the last time I saw her," she said.
Blochlinger said the girls' mother told her she had been with the girls in their bedroom 15 to 20 minutes before the fire broke out.
After the fire, Blochlinger said, "Our lives are definitely forever changed."
She and her husband have put smoke alarms in every room of their house. They now make their children sleep with their doors open.
Ashlynn was "a little lover," Blochlinger said. Alessandra was "so ornery."
"I just want people to know that they were wonderful," she said.
"You couldn't help but love them."