DAYTON - A 62-year-old woman died Wednesday morning in a blaze that consumed a Dayton mobile home she shared with her sister and brother-in-law.
The woman, whose name was being withheld pending notification of family members, was found near the front door of her double-wide home at 267 River Road off James Avenue.
Fire investigator Mary Ellen Holley said an exact cause of death will likely be revealed by an autopsy, but authorities believe it was related to the fire.
The woman's sister and brother-in-law, Ruth and Dale Wade, had already left for work well before the fire was reported at 6:05 a.m. A construction worker called 911 when he saw flames spewing from a window.
Neighbors Maureen and Kim Purbaugh said they had just awakened when the sound of the growing fire, about 200 feet from their front door, could be heard.
"By the time we saw the smoke it was too late," Maureen said. "We ran over and tried to get the hose to work, but there was no water pressure."
She said the homeowner, who lives next door, was able to let some dogs out before the house was too dangerous to approach.
"She tried to get back in, but (the firefighters) wouldn't let her," Maureen said.
The neighbors were also wary of two large propane tanks attached to the side of the home.
Holley said the fire appeared to have originated in the back of the house, rushing forward into the front room. The home, manufactured in the 1960s during a time of less stringent fire codes, was quickly consumed, she said.
The cause of the fire is also under investigation, although preliminarily it is believed to be accidental. The Purbaughs said a short in an electric bathroom fan was being considered as a source for the fire.
Although Holley wouldn't confirm that the fan was to blame, she said the fire marshall's office hopes to use autopsy results in determining the official cause of the fire. "When an autopsy tells you how someone died, it will also tell you about the fire," she said.
"The old mobile homes with metal siding act like a chimney and an oven," she added. "It started in the back and within seconds it spread to the front. By the time we got there it was a total loss."
Holley said some kittens also may have been killed in the fire.
A dollar estimate has not yet been attached to the value of the home and its contents. Holley said everything inside and out was a total loss. No other homes were close enough to be threatened.
A total of 18 firefighters, 13 of them volunteers, battled the blaze for about an hour. They were dispatched from Stagecoach, Silver Springs, Mark Twain, Dayton and Mound House. Five firefighters from Central Lyon County Fire District were also on hand.
Because there was no hydrant close to the home, firefighters had to maneuver a water tender into the cramped driveway before the fire could be doused.
Neighbors said family friend Ron Weddell donated some money to the Wades to help in their relocation. The American Red Cross was also assisting at the scene. The Wades are believed to be staying at a relative's house near the burned home.