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Investigators find likely cause of fatal house fire

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SPANISH FORK — A 2-year-old boy was killed in a Spanish Fork home fire early Tuesday.

Austin James Peterson died in the blaze that broke out when he was home with his 87-year-old great-grandmother, Betty Hone. Neighbors said Hone is visually impaired.

"It just breaks my heart because I know she would have went and got him if she could have," neighbor Alice Hughes said.

The fire was reported around 1:30 a.m. when a woman driving to her home saw flames in her rearview mirror, Spanish Fork Police Lt. Steve Adams said. She drove to the home at 2300 E. Canyon Road and found the home on fire with Hone in front of it.

She called 911 and officers from Spanish Fork Police and Fire responded. As a police officer escorted the woman away from the fire, she told him a 2-year-old child was in the home.

"The fire and the structure was such engulfed with flames that he was not able to go into the home to rescue that child," Adams said. "The fire department arrived and the fire was suppressed and then a determination was made that the child was in fact still in the home and had succumbed to either the fire or the smoke."

It just breaks my heart because I know she would have went and got him if she could have.

–Alice Hughes

The child's mother, Anna Jean Niederhauser, had left about an hour before the fire and officials recounted a tragic scene upon her return.

"She was very distraught and hysterical and our officers as well as the fire department had to hold her back from going in the home," Adams said. "Our hearts definitely go out to the mother, the child and the grandmother who was living here."

Officials were on-scene Tuesday working to determine the cause of the fire and the child's cause of death. It is believed an overloaded power strip may have been the cause of the fire and that smoke inhalation killed the boy.

The great-grandmother was under observation, and Adams said she "is definitely stressed and going through a lot of emotion right now."

Adams said the home appeared to be a total loss. The entire incident left those battling the blaze somber.

"The first priority is safety for the people and the structure and unfortunately that didn't work out the way we'd want it to work out," Adams said.

Contributing: Emiley Morgan


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