Smoke detectors disconnected at scene of fatal E. Germantown house fire [Updated]

Fewer than seven hours after a fire claimed two lives on East Germantown’s North Beechwood Street, a man pulled up outside Wednesday morning in a silver Impala, got plastic gloves out of his trunk and walked inside the charred shell of a home.

Minutes later, he walked out with a dufflebag filled with clothes and other posessions. He wondered aloud why the two-story home at 6329 N. Beechwood St. hadn’t been boarded up yet.

Then, he told NewsWorks that he was the grandson of Theresa Lukert, the 73-year-old longtime homeowner who died as a result of a fire for which investigators have yet to determine a cause.

“She was a great woman,” said the grandson, who did not want to be publicly identified, after throwing the gloves into a trash pile, putting the posessions he retrieved into the trunk of his car and leaving.

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While the elderly man who later died at the hospital has not yet been named by investigators, Executive Fire Chief Richard Davison offered some details of what happened.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 3 a.m. Wednesday. They saw heavy smoke coming from the second floor, fought the fire and had it officially under control by 3:24 a.m.

Lukert was found dead in bedroom in the middle of the second floor. Davison said firefighters found the water running in a bathtub, which indicated the elderly couple attempted to fight the fire which ultimately claimed their lives.

“Hard-wired smoke alarms had been disconnected,” said Davison of a discovery which rests at the heart of the department’s difference-between-life-or-death public-service campaign.

Davison also said that a firefighter was hospitalized with minor injuries later Wednesday morning.

This tragic story came less than two days after another pair of elderly Germantown residents were hospitalized following a Magnolia Street house fire.

UPDATE: In the time since this story was initially posted, the second victim has been identified as Beaufort Davis, who the Inquirer identified as Lukert’s “longtime friend, roommate and companion.”

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