CINCINNATI -- A house fire that started at about 1:40 a.m. Wednesday in Evanston claimed the life of a World War II veteran and his wife as they lay in their beds.
Investigators said the fire in the 3400 block of Wabash Ave. was relatively small and confined to two rear rooms of the first floor, but clutter prevented firefighters from entering the home quickly. Dispatchers had warned firefighters that the home was listed as a "hoarding" hazard.
Emergency crews found the man and woman inside the home and took them to University of Cincinnati Medical Center where they were later pronounced dead.
Investigators have not yet identified the victims, but the Hamilton County Auditor's website identifies 98-year-old Elijah Tooles and his wife Tammie Tooles as the home's owners.
WCPO visited the couple in December when the city was on the brink of fining them for an unsafe shed in their backyard. Over a dozen volunteers helped the veteran and his wife tear their shed down completely free of charge.
The bulk of the fire was knocked down in five minutes, but investigators estimate it still caused about $20,000 in damage. There were no working smoke detectors inside. One firefighter sustained a minor back strain while performing the rescues.
Neighbors said the couple had lived there for many years.
"They were a great older couple -- you know they come out and say hi," said neighbor Dustin Peters. "We had a few conversations. The older man was blind, so pretty much if they needed help like their yard mowed I would do it for them -- just the small stuff that I could do to help."
Investigators remain on scene to determine exactly how the fire started.