HOWLAND - Despite the efforts of an off-duty firefighter, a motorist and two police officers, a woman was killed after a blaze broke out at her DeForest Avenue S.E. home early Friday evening.
Township fire Chief James Pantalone would not confirm the woman's identity, but a man at the scene said she was his mother, Joyce Barker. The Trumbull County Auditor's website lists Joyce Barker as the home's owner.
Flames burst out in the 1393 DeForest Ave. S.E. home about 6:45 p.m. and Pantalone said they moved quickly.
John Krok said he was passing the one-story house when he noticed the flames and stopped. He said he knocked on the door but no one answered and asked a neighbor whether someone lived there. Krok said the neighbor said there was someone inside.
''I called 911 back and said there's someone alive in there,'' Krok said.
Krok continued knocking but said it was useless.
Howland firefighters battle a blaze at this DeForest Avenue S.E. home Friday evening that killed a woman. Investigators are still looking for a cause. Tribune Chronicle / Joe Gorman
''I didn't hear anything and I tried to get in but there was too much smoke,'' Krok said. ''The flames shot out 20 feet and wires were falling down.''
Later, Krok was talking to Barker's son, David Morris, and telling him how he and several others tried to get inside. Two Niles police officers, Capt. Jason Holland and Lt. Rob Meketa, were each on patrol and heard the call on their radios. Because the home is so close to Niles they went to check and also tried to get inside but couldn't, Holland said.
''We were in the back trying to smash the windows open, but the wires were falling down,'' Holland said. He said the smoke and flames prevented him and Meketa from getting inside.
An off-duty Lordstown firefighter who declined to give his name, said he was driving by, saw the flames and did get inside but couldn't find anybody. He was watching efforts and wearing a Lordstown fire department coat.
''I got in as far as the kitchen but that was as far as I could go,'' he said.
Pantalone said he was not sure of the cause, but he did say an oxygen tank was found in the home and taken out. Morris said his mother smoked. Pantalone said the oxygen tank may be related to the fire because of how quickly the fire spread.
The state Fire Marshal's Office also was called to the scene, and a detective from the police department was interviewing family members, which is standard procedure in a fatal fire, Pantalone said.
Weathersfield firefighters assisted Howland.
It took more than an hour to locate Barker's body in a back bedroom and firefighters used thermal-imaging cameras to help in the search. Pantalone said the flames were too intense when the first crews arrived to do a search inside and the home was still belching gray smoke into the air more than an hour after the fire was doused.
Crews also used fans and cut holes in the roof to ventilate the home.
Barker's death is the first fire fatality in Trumbull County in 2013. There have been three other fire deaths in the Mahoning Valley, one in Youngstown Jan. 17 and two in North Jackson early Sunday morning.
A family in Bazetta was displaced Monday evening when fire gutted their Larry Lane mobile home.