GARY, Ind. (STMW) – Officials are investigating the cause of what they suspect is an accidental fire at a Gary apartment complex that claimed the life of the 56-year-old woman who lived there.
Cpl. Gabrielle King, public information officer for the Gary Police Department, said emergency responders were called to the scene in the 5700 block of Forest Court about 12:10 p.m. Saturday.
When rescue workers arrived they removed the woman, who was unresponsive, from the apartment. The woman was pronounced dead at the ambulance at 1:35 p.m. Police were not releasing the identity of the woman pending notification of family members, but she was the resident of the unit where she was found, King said.
“GFD [Gary Fire Department] found her lying behind the entrance door to the apartment, face up,” King said. A cause of death had not been determined.
The Lake County Coroner’s Office said it expects to file its report Sunday.
The Indiana State Fire Marshall will assist in the investigation.
Lakeshore Dunes is a 680-unit apartment complex of three-flat buildings in Miller.
No other injuries were reported, but firefighters were called back to the scene about 5:30 or 6 p.m.
Gary Fire Battalion Chief Harmon Heflin said he was not sure what made the fire restart.
“It looks like the fire came back again through the eaves,” he said.
Heflin said four tenants were displaced by the second fire. He said it appears the structure may be a total loss.
The Rev. Ernest Murphy, pastor at New First Free Will Baptist Church in Gary, was among a handful of residents in the twin, three-floor, six-unit buildings not affected by the morning fire. Fire officials said the morning blaze affected only one side of the structure; the afternoon fire spread to both.
Murphy said he started smelling smoke in his apartment around 6 p.m. just before firefighters came through and evacuated him. He was able to get out safely but said most of his belongings are ruined.
“There is a lot of water damage in there,” Murphy said.
Residents who gathered to watch from neighboring buildings said explosions could be heard prior to the start of the second fire.
Laverne Martin, who lives in a neighboring unit, said it was a sad tragedy for residents of the building. Martin, her daughter Victoria, 23, and a neighbor, Kodie Kirkland, were watching firefighters from a building across the street. Martin said she was home in the morning when the first apartment caught fire.
“The people on the second floor had to break the windows and pass their kids out through the window,” Martin said. The victims were outside with no jackets or shoes. She said the afternoon fire was more severe and she was thankful no one else was injured.
“It was worse,” Martin said.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)