Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tragedy in Seminary Square

COVINGTON - Moments away from being rescued, a 57-year-old woman tragically died in a large, fast-moving fire overnight in the 1000 block of Russell Street, a fire official said.

Covington Firefighter Dave Studer was within arm's reach of rescuing the woman as she hung out a second story window of a historic home holding four condos when fire broke out a window below, said Covington Fire Chief Mark Young. Flames raced up the wall and separated the two.

“It was tragic. She retreated back into the house away from the window,” Young said in a phone interview today. “The firefighter nearly fell off the ladder. We were unable to retrieve her at that time. Crews went ahead and started fighting the fire. Once they got the fire to a manageable means, it was too late. She had already perished from the smoke and the fire.”

Firefighters were able to rescue the woman’s husband and another woman, he said. Both suffered smoke inhalation. The man was treated and released at the scene. The woman was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital North as a precaution.

Their names were not released.

Studer was not injured, but a second firefighter who fell off a ladder suffered bruising, Young said.

It is the second fatal fire in the region in the past 24 hours. Early Monday, three men died in a house fire in Lebanon.

The cause of the 1:45 a.m. Covington blaze remains under investigation.

A damage estimate is not available, but all four units in the 1800s building were destroyed by fire and water damage, Young said. The fire caused small parts of the roof to collapse before flames finally burned it almost totally out, he said.

No smoke detectors were heard or found.

Several people were displaced. It’s not yet clear how many, the chief said. The American Red Cross has been called to the scene to help them find temporary lodging.

The fire burned for a while before it broke out windows, drawing the attention of a passerby who called 911, Young said. The man also went around the building, knocking on doors and waking residents.

“It’s unfortunate, these early morning fires go unnoticed until they gain enough momentum and break through the windows,” Young said. “By then it’s usually had a pretty good head start when somebody calls on it.”

When fire crews arrived, flames were shooting from the building and a man was standing on a patio roof waiting for rescue.

“He informed the crews his wife was still inside,” Young said.

Firefighters went around the back of the building and saw the 57-year-old woman hanging out a second-floor window.

“We were right there,” the chief said. “We could almost reach out and touch her. She was a larger woman and was having difficulty getting through the window. We were trying to get her out….It’s very tragic when these things happen. We always think in the back of our minds: ‘would we have done something different?’ In my judgment, we did everything we could. The fire had started pretty good and spread pretty rapidly.”


We just got back from the fire scene, which is literally only one and a half blocks from our home.

Turn out we met the folks living on the South side of this building.

These four homes (some were rentals) are all connected and apparently the fire started in the second unit when they turned on the gas heat some time last night. The fire spread up into the attic, then spread to the other units.

The entire third floor is gone.

These folks on the end (Just Can't remember their names right now...) we met a few years ago before we bought our home. They were in the Covington Rehab- O-Rama tour. We visited their home and noted what a beauty of a job they'd done redoing the whole house. I remember the uber-cool lights they had over their kitchen island, and I hope they can salvage most of the work they've done.

It makes me want to cry seeing them try to salvage their furniture and artwork out on the front yard after all of the fire/smoke and water damage.

Our hearts are with you all.

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