Updated: 11/15/10 5:38 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – An elderly woman was killed in a fire Monday afternoon in the South Side’s Englewood neighborhood.
The fire broke out in a building in the 5700 block of South Damen Avenue. CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports the victim was a 72-year-old grandmother who was beloved throughout the neighborhood.
The victim, Mattie Lee Fletcher, is described as a neighborhood stalwart, a mother figure for everyone here.
She apparently had no chance of escaping the fire at her home of 35 years. The fire spread quickly. Within minutes, the wood frame house was completely in flames.
Neighbor Tyrone Craft said he was a half block away. He called 911, and then ran over to help.
“The father came out the front, looking like he walked through the fire, because there was no going back in to save nobody through the front,” Craft said. “We all went around through the back. He got the back door open. We crawled in through the back, but the smoke was too thick to go in, any more than about five feet.”
The man Craft called “the father” was badly burned. He and the others could not get to his wife: Mattie Lee Fletcher. She died in the front of the house.
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“My mom raised us well. She cared about us more than she cared about herself,” said Dolores Griffin, Fletcher’s daughter.
Griffin said just last night they talked about death.
“Last night, we were actually talking about who would I talk to, who would I share my secrets with?” said Griffin. “She wouldn’t judge me. She always came up with a solution. Who would I talk to now?”
Neighbors say Fletcher loved to sit on her porch and welcomed anyone in the neighborhood.
“She treated everybody kind. She’ll help anybody. She just loved people,” said neighbor Dorothy Farmer.
Mattie Lee Fletcher had five children, but neighbors and friends said she treated all the young people as if they were her children.
“You have a baby, you already knew she was going to knit something for that baby,” said neighbor Sharon Fields. “ She was just a wonderful person.”
Fletcher’s husband is in the hospital in serious condition. Investigators, including those from Peoples Gas, were on the scene Monday evening, trying to determine the cause of the fire.
Officials say there were working smoke detectors in the house.