Investigators working to determine what caused Middletown fire that killed woman

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Investigators are tight-lipped, despite saying they have a theory of what caused a fire that killed a 50-year-old Middletown woman Thursday.

Officials said Denise Fulcher was trapped in her home in the 2500 block of El Camino Drive after it burst into flames at about 10:45 a.m.

Neighbors said they could hear her shouts for help.

“This guy… said that someone was in the house and she was moaning and the tile was melting,” neighbor Bonnie Deleon said. “It was just horrific.”

Firefighters said they could hear Fulcher screaming when they attempted to control the flames and get inside the home.

But their efforts couldn’t save her.

“At that point, they had some collapse of the roof and some of the floor and we ordered crews out of the building,” Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli said. “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 in their attempted rescue.

When the roof collapsed around them, debris struck a firefighter in the shoulder and neck. He was taken to Atrium Medical Center for treatment and is recovering.

“Even with the personnel that we had, and the valiant efforts by crews, we were still not able to save a person in need of help," said Chris Klug, president at Middletown Firefighters Local 336.

Klug said he worries others could be in danger due to upcoming firefighter cuts.

In August, 15 Middletown firefighters will be laid off in a cost-cutting move by the city. Klug says that means longer response times.

"If we have less firefighters, those guys are going to be out on other runs,” Klug said. “We've already seen increased response times over the years… it’s only going to get worse."

Currently, six of the 15 firefighters facing cuts are paid for by a FEMA grant. Klug said the city is not reapplying for that grant.

Emily Fulcher said she is devastated over the loss of her mother in Thursday’s fire. She said Fulcher was a giving person who lived at the home with her boyfriend.

“She was really funny and she was the type of person that if you needed a shirt off her back, she would give it to you,” Emily said. “She was really caring."

Emily is waiting to find out what caused the fire that killed her mother.

She said she’s just barely keeping it together.

“I know she is in a better place and she's happier and she's looking down on me,” Emily said. “She's with all the other angels."

Firefighters stayed at the scene until 3 a.m. Friday collecting evidence.

With the home’s roof gone, and rainy weather, officials said they wanted to preserve as much as possible.

Investigators said they are trying to determine if fire accelerants are present in the home’s charred remains.

No other information has been released.

WCPO's Jason Law contributed to this report.

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