updated 11/19/2006 8:17:45 PM ET 2006-11-20T01:17:45

Fire swept through a southern Indiana home Sunday morning, killing three adults and a baby and producing smoke so thick it drove back a would-be rescuer, fire officials said.

The one-story, ranch-style house was already fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, state Fire Marshal Roger Johnson said.

He said the bodies of the three adults and the baby were found in a front room. The deaths boosted Indiana’s fire fatalities in house fires this year to more than 80.

The identifies of the four victims would not be released until after autopsies Monday, Jennings County Coroner Gene Rudicel said.

Gary Herche, who lives a few houses away, said his wife woke him up after she heard a loud explosion and he ran to the house, jumping over two fences to reach it.

However, he was driven back by smoke so dense that he realized he couldn’t reach the front door without suffocating, he said.

“It was bad,” Herche said.

Johnson said fire investigators were looking into the possibility that the fire, reported at 8:30 a.m., may have originated with the home’s recently serviced furnace.

Authorities did not release identities of the victims, but neighbors said an elderly woman lived in the house with relatives, including a baby boy.

The fire occurred at a home near the downtown area of North Vernon, about 50 miles south of Indianapolis.

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