Update: Woman killed in duplex fire identified


by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News, photojournalist KENNETH NULL and editor ROB DIAZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @TinaS_KVUE


Posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Deadly duplex fire

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AUSTIN -- Investigators have determined the cause of a duplex fire on Monday, and the name of the woman killed inside has been released.

KVUE's partners at the Austin American-Statesman report that Ella Mae Nichols, 73, was killed in the fire. She and two other people were inside the Tumbleweed Drive duplex when flames ripped through it on Monday morning. The duplex is located near U.S. 183, close to LBJ High School.

The Austin Fire Department determined an electric space heater malfunctioned and ignited surrounding objects. The damage of the structure was determined to be $40,000 and the contents of the structure had $20,000 worth of damage.

AFD Battalion Chief Thayer Smith told KVUE the fire was a very hot and dangerous one. At the height of the fire, more than 40 of his men and women were trying to knock out the flames.

The call came in just before 8 a.m., and firefighters rushed to the scene. There were reports that a woman was trapped inside.

When crews arrived they found very heavy fire coming from the front door, and made a very aggressive attack called "vent enter search." It's a dangerous yet necessary tactic used in rescue missions.

Nichols' husband and son were also inside the home, but they got out with non-life threatening injuries.

The house is a duplex, and the family on the other side was not home when the fire started.

Two other people were injured in the fire, according to Austin-Travis County EMS. Their injuries were stress-related.

There were no smoke alarms in the house. AFD will be doing a smoke alarm check in the neighborhood later this week.

AFD says a working smoke alarm is vital. If you need a smoke alarm, call (512) 974-0299.

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