Fire officials in the town of Elsmere in New Castle County are in investigating a house fire that broke out on Sycamore Avenue around 9:30 Wednesday night, taking the lives of an elderly woman and her two pets.
According to Michael Wiktorowcz, deputy chief of the Elsmere Fire Department, the blaze broke out in the basement of the row home, where Mary Ellen Nelson and her husband Dennis were living.
Dennis was able to escape the fire. He was initially transported to Christiana Hospital and then transferred to Crozer Chester Medical Center.
Wiktorowcz said the blaze was difficult to control due to a number of factors including home oxygen that Mary Ellen was using and the electrical wiring of the house.
“We don’t know exactly how the fire originated but we know it was fed by oxygen which hindered our crew’s initial attack,” said Wiktorowcz. “We also had electrical problems because of the way homes are constructed. The power lines rest on the rear of the home and they had a lot of electrical arching (sparking) and embers from arching and melting from the cables down on to the fire fighters and their crews. It posed a hazard electrically trying to advance into the basement and through the rear of the building.”
The crew was able to get through the front of the home after battling excessive smoke and heat.
“It was probably 20-25 minutes when they got a good knock down of the initial fire and were able to do a good primary search,” he said.
Wiktorowcz added that the home had a lot of clutter which made the search and rescue efforts even more difficult.
“When they found the victim she was already, not necessarily pronounced dead, but expired as far as being able to remove her and being able to get her to an emergency room to try and revive her,” he said.
This is the first fire death the town of Elsmere has handled in decades.
“We’re going to check our archives, but we’re looking well over 25 years since we’ve had a fire death in the town limits,” he said.