PECAN HILL — The cause of a fire that took the life of one woman Wednesday is under investigation by the Ellis County and the State Fire Marshal’s Offices.
Emergency responders were dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 500 block of Pritchett Road at 4:24 p.m. Wednesday, March 29.
“We received a call of a reported structure fire. While in route we received additional information that they (the caller) thought that there was a person inside the residence. It was pretty obvious that it was going to be a working incident because we could see a smoke column while we were responding. There were multiple reports of it,” Red Oak Fire Chief Eric Thompson said. “Upon our arrival, we had a mobile home that was fully involved. We had fire showing from every window and door. We had a patient in the front yard that ended up being the victim’s husband. “
Thompson said both occupants were asleep at the time of the fire. The fire woke the husband and he then went to check on his wife who was in another room where he then found the fire.
“He attempted numerous times to rescue her. She had multiple health issues, which created mobility challenges for her. She didn’t move around too well,” Thompson said. “I think that he told us he tried three different times to get her out and couldn’t. He was burned and had smoke inhalation. When we were pulling up, he was crawling across the front yard trying to get to the road.”
Thompson said the man was transported by AMR ground ambulance to Parkland Memorial Hospital’s Burn Unit in Dallas. He added that the man’s injuries were not critical or life threating.
“Unfortunately, due to the heavy fire load, we had to do defensive operations initially because conditions were too hazardous to allow firefighters inside the building,” Thompson said. "After we were able to knock the fire down, we transitioned into an offensive mode.”
Thompson said firefighters were able to bring the fire under control in about 45 minutes. Upon entering the mobile home, firefighters checked the victim for signs of life, but, due to the extent of her injuries, no signs of life were found.
“We did a minimum overhaul. We treat that as a crime scene. Anytime that you have a fatality the investigation goes to a higher level. You have CID (criminal investigative division) out there and you have the fire marshal out there. A representative from the state fire marshal’s office responded because it was a fatality. There are just more layers to the investigation,” Thompson said. “We work really hard to protect as much of the interior as we can. We still have to put the fire out, but we also have to be very conscience of protecting [the scene] so the investigators can do their job."
Ellis County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Curtis Polk was called out the scene where he pronounced the woman deceased at 8:40 p.m. He then ordered the body be taken to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy. Positive identification is still pending at this time, Polk said.
Thompson said the home had no working smoke detectors at the time of the fire. He encourages the public to have working smoke detectors because they are proven to save lives.
According to the National Fire Protection Association’s website, a 2010 telephone survey showed that approximately 96 percent of all homes in the United States have at least one smoke alarm. Based on these results, almost five million households still do not have at least one working smoke alarm.
“In reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half, 47 percent, of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries,” the NFPA website stated. “Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected smoke alarms.”
“The thing is we can’t highlight, advocate, preach, teach or educate enough that every home should have working smoke detectors because they save lives,” Thompson said.
Providing assistance on the call were members of the Waxahachie, Ferris and Ovilla Fire Departments. Filling in at Red Oak’s station one on Methodist Street were members of the Glenn Heights Fire Department to cover the city while crews were out on the call.
Thompson said two Red Oak firefighters were slightly injured. One had a sprained wrist and the other had a sprained thumb. Both were treated at the scene. Firefighters cleared the scene and returned to the station at 10:30 p.m.
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