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“A sucker punch to the gut”: Harrisburg rebounding from tragic weekend

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Florence Peterson walked out of her home on Lexington Street early Monday afternoon, her head covered by her winter coat hood, wiping away tears as she slowly shuffled towards a makeshift memorial two doors down.

Three nights early, Peterson stood in front of this house in an entirely different state of emotion. Today, it's virtually unrecognizable; its foundation gutted, its exterior frayed black from the smoke and flames.

"There was so much fire," she recalled. "I've never seen so much fire in my life."

On Friday night, a fire tore through the Lexington Street home, killing toddler Ashanti Hughes, 2, and sending two others to the Lehigh Valley Burn Center in critical condition: Savannah Dominick, 10, and Emoni Jackson, 3.

Jackson has since been sent to Penn State Hershey Medical Center and is listed in fair condition.

Peterson remembers standing in front of the home, shouting at a young boy inside to jump out of the window.

"He said, 'I can't find the window.  I can't find it. There's too much smoke.' I told him to jump out of there," Peterson says sobbing. "I knew with all this fire, something bad was going to happen."

The fire started after a Hoverboard exploded in the living room, according to Harrisburg Fire Bureau Chief Brian Enterline. The fire quickly spread to the home's drapery, and overstuffed furniture "acted like gasoline," Enterline added.

"I have not seen a home incinerated like that in quite some time," Enterline said. "That family lost everything."

Added Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, "It was basically like a sucker punch to the gut. And just when we thought it couldn't get much worse it did."

Friday night, Lieutenant Denny DeVoe of the Harrisburg Fire Bureau was in the process of responding to the fire on Lexington Street. He was hit by a stolen car driven by Khanyae Kendall, 19, who was under the influence and fled the scene, according to Harrisburg Police.

Lt. DeVoe died on Saturday.

"Over the past weekend, the calls we've received from our mutual aid partners...has been nothing less than overwhelming," Chief Enterline said.

Khanyae Kendall

Khanyae Kendall will face more criminal charges, according to Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico. Officials are awaiting the results of DeVoe's autopsy, and a complete investigation into the crash which killed DeVoe, including the level of Kendall's intoxication.

Additional charges could be homicide by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while intoxicated, or involuntary manslaughter, Marsico said.

"Anytime where there's a crash where someone causes the death of another, it's a tragedy," he said. "In fact, these are some of the worst cases we deal with."

Marsico expects additional charges to be announced by next week.

Lt. DeVoe, a father of four children, is being remembered as a hero.

In February, he and Squadman Nate Martin ran into an apartment on Kittatiny Street in South Allison Hill to save a man. The fire, which was intentionally set according to fire officials, was blocking the entrance to the apartment door.

"They literally ran through a wall of fire to save the man in the first floor apartment," Enterline said on February 2.