A 45-year-old York woman died Sunday morning in a three-alarm fire at her home caused by careless smoking. The woman, Tia Smith, lived at 190 E. Cottage Place, Deputy Coroner Jeffri Goodfellow said. Three adults and three children from the same address survived the fire, Goodfellow said.
Goodfellow said Smith's cause of death will be determined "pending lab work."
Nineteen people were displaced from the four-unit rowhome at 184-190 E. Cottage Place, said Victoria Connor of the American Red Cross. Some were taken to York Hospital for unknown injuries, Connor said.
Steve Buffington, York City Department Fire/Rescue
Services chief, said some of the residents at 190 E. Cottage Place "jumped out the back window of the second floor. The adults threw the children down."
Buffington said that, at 6:53 a.m., firefighters entered Smith's home and began fighting the blaze and searching for her.
"They had fire front to back, first to third floor. . . . They had to fight their way in," Buffington said. "If you don't knock the fire down, the victim can't survive."
Firefighters found Smith on the first floor about 10 minutes after they got inside, Buffington said.
About 10:10 a.m., Smith's body was removed from the home, shielded by firefighters, who held up white sheets and tarps.
Noreen Freeland, who lives nearby, said Smith was a friendly
"I would see the lady all the time, just a really nice lady," she said. "Everybody in the neighborhood spoke with her. She always waved."
Michelle Peters, who lives next door at 182 E. Cottage Place, said she was awoken by screams and called 911 on her cell phone.
"It's just sad. It's so sad," she said.
Fire's cause found
York City firefighters and police, state police fire marshals and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the fire, Buffington said.
Buffington said investigators found the fire was caused by "careless handling of smoking materials" on the first floor. Smith was a known smoker and was the only one staying on the first floor, he said.
He said two factors contributed to Smith's death: a lack of adequate smoke alarms and Smith's trying to fight the fire.
Buffington said other residents in 190 E. Cottage Place told investigators there had been a smoke alarm on the first floor, but they had removed its battery because it would go off when they would cook, he said.
They also said there had been an alarm on the second floor, but investigators could find no evidence of one , Buffington said. A smoke alarm was found on the third floor, he said.
A man who lived on the third floor told investigators he was awoken by that alarm and alerted those who lived on the second and third floors, Buffington said.
"They tried to come down the inside stairs (to get to the first floor), but that was blocked by intense heat and smoke," he said.
Jumping out of a second-floor window, they ran to the front to get Smith out but could not get in the front door, he said.
Buffington said investigators found evidence Smith tried use a fire extinguisher on the blaze.
"When she first discovered the fire, if she evacuated, certainly the outcome would've been different," he said.
Neighbors, Red Cross help
Peters said she awoke about 6:30 a.m. to screams coming from the three-story brick rowhome.
Running outside, she saw two women standing in front of the smoking rowhome -- Smith's daughter and a woman who lives at 188 E. Cottage Place.
Freeland said she was looking out a window in her home and saw someone throw a baby out a second- or third-floor window.
Peters' husband, Dennis, ran to get a sledgehammer to break down the front door to 190 E. Cottage Place, but in the meantime, another neighbor had broken it down.
"But by that time, there was black smoke billowing out," Michelle Peters said. "There was no way anybody could get in, it was too involved."
The Peters' 16-year-old daughter, Kristina, retrieved some blankets from their home and gave them to the residents waiting outside.
Red Cross members began helping the displaced residents at the scene.
Written by York Daily Record
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix