Washington woman dies in house fire
As Karen Lorence looked through her living room window from her East Jefferson Street house this morning toward the house to the east of her, tears came to her eyes as she thought of her friend Clara Pearson.
She thought of the friendship that had spanned years; of the friendly woman who waved at every vehicle that drove past her house; and of the former OB nurse who had helped deliver her two sons.
“I’m going to miss her,” Lorence said through tears. “She was the sweetest person. It was just a loving wonderful friendship and her husband was every bit as caring as she was. Everyone loved her. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was always smiling.”
Pearson, 87, was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital after firefighters removed her from her house while extinguishing a kitchen fire.
At about 8:45 p.m. Thursday, dispatch received a call reporting a house fire. Pearson’s neighbor, Bethany Thomas, had smelled smoke. Thomas said she had been cutting her sons’ hair and had taken the clippings outside when she first smelled the smoke. She initially thought someone was burning some trash. As she went to investigate, she noticed smoke coming from the window of the small residence at 744 East Jefferson.
“I heard a smoke alarm and started to walk around,” Thomas said. “I started walking because I didn’t know where it was coming from. I opened the screen door to knock on the door and the smoke from behind the door overwhelmed me. I called the fire department right away.”
The Washington Fire Department, Washington Police officers, Washington County Ambulance, Alliant Energy and the City of Washington all responded.
Washington Fire Chief Tom Wide said that on arrival firefighters saw “light smoke” coming from the kitchen area. He said the fire had started in the kitchen.
“It appeared to be contained to the kitchen area,” he said. “There was heat and smoke through the rest of the house.”
He said the teams had the fire under control inside 10 minutes and began doing search and rescue. He said Pearson was found in the living room of the house just inside the front door. While he isn’t sure because other firefighters had found her, he believes she was unconscious when she was discovered.
Pearson was taken to the Washington County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Wide said the state fire marshal was called to investigate the cause of the fire. As of this morning, the cause is undetermined.
“The investigation is finishing up today,” he said. “Any time there is a fatality, we call the fire marshal and they take the lead in the investigation.”
For the full story, see our Oct. 29 print edition.