GREENFIELD — Standing before of the charred remains of the place he’s called home for nearly 25 years, Lemuel Boylen had a deep sadness in his bright blue eyes.
It took less than an hour for him to lose everything, he said — his belongings, his home and his wife of 40 years.
His home in the 8600 block of East County Road 50S in Greenfield caught fire late Sunday. His wife, 58-year-old Patricia Boylen, wasn’t able to escape in time.
Patricia Boylen, with whom Lemuel Boylen had two children, was home alone when the fire started. Fire officials believe she accidentally set the family’s couch ablaze while smoking a cigarette.
The fire spread and quickly claimed the rest of the house, fire officials said.
Patricia Boylen was pronounced dead at Hancock Regional Hospital, despite emergency crew’s attempts to revive her.
Lemuel Boylen said he is convinced his wife tried to put out the fire and stayed in the home too long, inhaling too much smoke. He arrived home to see smoke coming from the house and found his wife in the kitchen with the sink running. When he realized what had happened, he tried to help her out of the home to safety.
But Patricia Boylen was hardly breathing when medics arrived, according to police broadcasts. She was taken to the hospital, where she died in the emergency room, Hancock County Chief Deputy Coroner Rudy Nylund said.
Patricia Boylen was using a walker to get around and had prior respiratory issues, Nylund said. Those breathing issues likely will be listed as contributing to her death, he said.
An autopsy was planned to be performed today to officially determine Boylen’s official cause of death, but Nylund said it appears smoke inhalation is to blame.
The official cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Hancock County Fire Investigations Task Force, said Charlottesville Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief D.B. Bowman.
The Boylens’ ranch-style home was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived, Bowman said. It took more than an hour to get the blaze under control, and firefighters continued to the flames overnight, he said. Crews finally left the home at 4:30 a.m. Monday, according to 911 dispatch records.
The Charlottesville and Jackson-Blue River Township volunteer fire departments led efforts to fight the blaze. They were assisted at the scene by several departments including the Greenfield Fire Territory and Carthage and Fountaintown fire departments.
Because there are no fire hydrants near the home, tankers from several county fire departments drove water to the scene. That made fighting the fire a bit more difficult, Bowman said.
Monday afternoon, neighbors and friends flocked to Lemuel Boylen’s side to offer support. They shared hugs and wiped away tears, remembering a woman her family described as having a big heart.