Neighbors react to south central fire that killed two

Crews entered the home to evacuate occupants and found the body of one victim, but were forced back out by heavy smoke and flames. When they went back in they found a second victim who had died.

Posted: Feb 2, 2018 4:30 PM
Updated: Feb 3, 2018 1:37 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- Two people are dead after a fire ripped through a south central neighborhood.

It started just after 5:00 a.m. Friday in the 1200 block of Huestis Avenue. When crews arrived they found a home completely engulfed in flames. The fire also spread to the house next door.

Crews entered the home to evacuate occupants and found the body of one victim, but were forced back out by heavy smoke and flames. When they went back in they found a second victim who had died. No one in the other home was injured.

Phyllis Shaw has lived on Huestis for 40 years.

"It'll probably be boring around here now," Shaw said of the loss of her neighbors.

Shaw woke up just before 5:00 a.m. to flames shooting through the roof of the house next door to her. She said she's shocked the fire didn't touch her home.

"God blessed me. It didn't get me," Shaw said.

Shaw is a longtime supporter of local police and fire, and described watching the action unfold as crews rushed into the burning home.

"Oh, the firemen running in and out of the house and squirting it down, and they did a good job. Then the other house caught on fire," She said.

Across the street another neighbor watched through her window. She said her daughter called 911.

"I coming down and she's crying, you know feeling sad because we can do nothing, only God," said Elizabeth Lieba.

Lieba said even though she couldn't help, she knows crews did everything they could to save her neighbors.

"I'm proud of these people because they're doing a hard job and tried to save life," Leiba said.

Eric Lahey, FWFD Chief, said crews were not only set back by heavy flames and  smoke, but also the cold temperatures.

"Any time that we are in extreme elements, like today, it makes the job a little difficult, more difficult than it already is.. It doesn't take long for hose lines to freeze. It doesn't take long for gear to freeze," Lahey said.

Lahey told WFFT days like today take a toll on firefighters.

"We tried everything we could to get inside, but got pushed back out. So, that's sometimes hard on our firefighters to know they can't always save everyone," he said.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. The names of the victims will be released by the Allen County Coroner's Office.

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