Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Portville blaze claims life of elderly woman - Times Herald

By SHAWN CAMPBELL, Olean Times Herald                                                 

PORTVILLE — An elderly woman died in a structure fire Monday evening about half a mile north of the New York-Pennsylvania state line. At about 6:45 p.m., firefighters were called to the blaze at 118 Portville Eldred Road. Portville Fire Department Chief Jeff Latten declined to release the name of the fire’s victim.

“At this point, it’s just under investigation,” he said.

“She was transported to Olean General (Hospital). She died from injuries. We don’t know what that is at this point. We’re assuming smoke inhalation, but we can’t say.”

The rural residence, which had been sold in 2013 and sits on 56.75 acres of land, is owned by Brooklynn Ann Welden, according to the Cattaraugus County Office of Real Property.

But Latten was unsure whether the victim lived in the home.

“We honestly don’t know that,” the chief said. “She was inside the door; we’re assuming she did. But to say she did for sure, I can’t … because we’ve been here before for other things and she didn’t used to.”

Latten wasn’t aware of anyone else being home at the time of the fire, and he said a passer-by reported the blaze. The two-story house as well as an adjacent two-vehicle garage caught fire.

“When I got here, the fire was well involved at the back of the house,” Latten said. “You didn’t see any flames, but you knew it was in the roof because it was coming up over and breathing out the front.

“I can’t even say for sure where it started yet.”

Firefighters also responded from Westons Mills; the town of Olean; Eldred, Pa.; Eldred Township; Shinglehouse, Pa.; and Allegany. Hinsdale’s department was on standby at Portville, while Allegany was on standby at Westons Mills.

Latten said heavy damage resulted, adding it took about 45 minutes for firefighters to get the blaze under control.

“Conditions inside the house made it extremely difficult to access the second floor,” he said.

The house and land had a total assessment of $27,600, county property records indicated. The land itself was assessed at $17,400.

The property appeared to include a small farm, with a pig and chickens roaming as firefighters doused the blaze.

Latten has been a firefighter for 35 years and witnessed many fatal fires, he said, stressing the difficulty for all of those involved.

“You try to get them out, you try to do what you can for them and you try to save what you can,” he said. “Fatalities affect everyone negatively. Those of us that have been doing this for a long time take it a little bit easier. Your new guys, this is the part of the job that you tell them about but they don’t get to experience it. It’s hard on your manpower.”
Portville blaze claims life of elderly woman