The mother of a 17-year-old Lawrence girl who died in an arson fire early Sunday continued to recover today from injuries she suffered in the blaze as authorities entered their fifth day of investigation.
Ella Farmer, 43, remained in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit at the Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., where she was taken after the fire at her apartment building.
Lawrence Fire Marshal Rich Barr said this morning that Farmer's condition was improving and that authorities hoped to talk to her soon about the blaze. He said Farmer still was hooked to a respirator because of swelling in her throat.
Barr said Farmer had been unable to talk since the fire. But now, he said, she is communicating and should be able to talk soon.
"Obviously, we'll be talking to her once we get the OK from the medical side," he said.
Lawrence firefighters were called at 2:44 a.m. Sunday to a four-unit apartment building at 714 W. 25th, where the victims were staying. Firefighters said the fire was set in a vacant ground-floor apartment.
Farmer's daughter, LaTonya Farmer, died from smoke inhalation shortly after being taken from her apartment, on the second floor. A friend of LaTonya's, Brandy Martin, 13, died Monday.
Another girl who was injured in the blaze, Monechia Fisher, 7, was released Monday from KUMC.
Authorities reported that LaTonya Farmer helped two nieces out of the apartment before she collapsed.
Barr said that on Wednesday authorities canvassed the neighborhood for information. He said investigators questioned residents in at least eight apartment buildings in the area.
But investigators today remained unsure how the fire started or who was responsible for setting the blaze, Barr said. He said investigators were continuing to look into allegations that drugs were being used in the building and that a tenant who moved out Saturday had threatened several times to burn it down.
He had no further information about either allegation.
Barr urged anyone with information about the fire to call 841-0007 Ext. 171 or 1-800-KS-CRIME.