Neighbors heard woman calling for help in Middletown fatal house fire

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- One woman could not be saved from a house fire in Middletown late Thursday morning, where she succumbed to flames and thick smoke.

The fire broke out at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the 2500 block of El Camino Drive - where the victim, 50-year-old Denise Fulcher lived.

Emily Fulcher, Denise's daughter, said her mother lived at the home with her boyfriend.

Neighbors and firefighters said they heard someone trapped inside calling for help as the flames rose Thursday morning.

"They could hear somebody screaming, attempted to make location of that victim, but they were unable to find the victim, and at that point they had some collapse of the roof and some of the floor and we ordered crews out of the building to go into a defensive fire," Chief Paul Lolli of the Middletown Fire Department said.

Investigators found Fulcher close to the front door of her home, in a desperate struggle to make it to safety.

"She made it close to the front door but probably was overcome by the smoke and the heat and unable to get the door open," Lolli said.

Crews faced intense heat and smoke conditions as they tried to rescue Fulcher, Chris Klug, president of Middletown firefighters said.

“Even with the personnel that we had today, and the valiant efforts by crews we were still not able to save a person in need of help," Klug said.

A woman who lives nearby, Bonnie Deleon, took a photo of the flames.

"I figured that there was nobody home," Deleon said. "Then there was guy that came around and he said that someone was in the house and she was moaning and the tile was melting. It was just horrific. They didn't get her out."

One firefighter was hurt when part of the roof collapsed, and hit him in his shoulder and neck. He was taken to Atrium Medical Center to be treated, but recovered at home Thursday night.

Firefighters sifted through ashes for hours Thursday. An officer with the state fire marshal walked a K9 officer through the debris, where the dog could sniff out and alert investigators to evidence of fire accelerants.

Lolli does not believe the fire is suspicious.

"Not at this point," he said. "There was a heavy fire when the first crew got here, so a lot of damage has been done. That's why it's taken so long to dig things out and make sure we cover all bases."

Fire investigators have not yet determined the fire's cause. Efforts are being led by the Middletown fire marshal, who called on state fire marshal investigators for help.

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