Friday, July 16, 1999

Fatal fire at seniors home overnight

One resident dead; 3 officers injured in rescue

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        At least one person died and five were injured early today when fire heavily damaged a building housing senior citizens and disabled people in Walnut Hills.

        Identities were unavailable early today. Among those taken to area hospitals were three police officers who helped rescue residents of Kemper Lane Senior Citizen Building, 2500 Kemper Lane.

        The blaze started on the second floor of the four-story, brick, U-shaped building shortly after 1 a.m., then spread to the third floor, said Assistant Fire Chief David Hill. The cause and damage estimate were not known early today.

        “It was smoke, smoke, smoke and then they knocked on my door,” said Billy Dailey, 51, who has lived in the building five years. His unit is on the third floor, opposite the southwest wing where authorities say the fire started.

        At least 60 residents crowded on sidewalk, across from the building, as crews battled the fire in the sticky, early-morning darkness.

        The layout of the building posed problems for fire crews helping with evacuations, Chief Hill said. It's a problem that has occurred before with fires at that address, he said.

        Willie Martin, a resident of fourth floor, awoke, smelled smoke, then made his way downstairs in spite of recent abdominal surgery.

        “I kept smelling the smoke,” he said, sitting on a gurney across the street. “I awoke my sister and brother in law. I was worried about the other people going down the steps -- the elderly people.”


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