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Springfield boy dies in Fourth of July fire.

Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - A 4-year-old boy died Wednesday when he was trapped in a closet where fireworks ignited.

The tragedy unfolded early in the morning, Springfield Police Sgt. Mike McCarthy said. Firefighters responded to the call at 6:45 a.m. at a white, two-story duplex on Cloverleaf Loop, a quiet cul-de-sac near Gateway Street.

The eight other people in the house at the time ran outside after calling firefighters, then discovered that Caleb Freeman was missing. Two people were burned on their arms and legs when they ran back into the house to try to rescue the boy, McCarthy said, but they were unable to save him.

The fireworks were in a deep walk-in closet in a bedroom on the second floor and were between the boy and the closet door, McCarthy said.

When firefighters put the fire out, they found Caleb's body in the back of the closet, McCarthy said.

The Springfield fire and police departments and the Lane County district attorney's office will jointly investigate the incident. The county medical examiner will conduct an autopsy. The investigation is standard practice when a fire involves a death, McCarthy said. The police declined to identify the parents.

The family is struggling with shock and grief, said Robert Chance, the fiance of Caleb's aunt. Chance was at the house on Wednesday, helping to retrieve clothing and other items for surviving family members who were taken to a nearby hotel by American Red Cross volunteers.

Chance described Caleb's parents as good, hard-working people who have struggled to make ends meet.

"His dad, most of the jobs he gets are part time or seasonal. I've seen him working 18 hours a day to support his family," Chance said.

He described Caleb as a happy-go-lucky child who liked cookies and enjoyed bouncing on his aunt's knee.

"He was so loving, and he loved attention," Chance said. Caleb had turned 4 years old on Saturday, but his parents didn't have enough money for a birthday party, Chance said.

"I would just really love it if either God or society would give them a break," he said.

The news shook the neighborhood. People were rallying around the family, offering food, a place to stay and clothing.

"We're really thankful for all the neighbors," Chance said.

Crossfire World Outreach Ministries has set up a fund to help the family, who lost many possessions to smoke and water damage, said Aaron Taylor, Crossfire's pastor.

People can send checks to the church, marking them for Caleb Freeman, at 942 28th St., Springfield, OR 97477.
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Title Annotation:Fires; Two people are burned trying to save the 4-year-old, who was trapped when fireworks ignited in a second-story closet
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 5, 2007
Words:429
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