GREENFIELD — Bill Sego spotted the smoke cloud from his front yard Wednesday morning and rushed to the next street to investigate.
He found flames shooting through the roof of his neighbor’s little brick home. He and another man raced around the yard, banging on windows — even hurling a brick through one — in hopes of getting the attention of anyone inside.
He told the firefighters who arrived minutes later he was worried someone might still be trapped inside.
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He was right.
A Greenfield woman died Wednesday morning inside the home in the 2100 block of Anita Lane in Buck Creek Township.
Linda Murray, 64, was home alone when the fire started. Its cause remains under investigation, but officials said Murray was a smoker who used an oxygen tank to help her breathe, a dangerous combination.
Firefighters believe Murray might have tried to put the fire out herself and was overwhelmed in the smoke.
Her body was found in the kitchen — a commonality in many fatal fires, Buck Creek Township Fire Chief Dave Sutherlin. Often, people who die in house fires are found in their kitchens, where they ran to fill cups with water in hopes they could douse the flames before they spread, he said.
Though it still is early in the investigation, it appears that’s what happened to Murray, Sutherlin said. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a formal investigation into her death, but at this time, detectives don’t suspect foul play, he said.
Her death appears to be a tragic accident, Sutherlin said.
Murray’s home sits in the 2100 block of Anita Lane in Greenfield, just west of County Road 200W and north of U.S. 40.
Neighbors called 911 around 9 a.m. Wednesday after spotting smoke pouring from the home.
Flames had already broken through the roof of the home by the time first-responders arrived on scene, Sutherlin said. It took about an hour for firefighters to get the blaze under control, he said.
Investigators believe the fire started in an enclosed porch located on the back side of the home, where Murray’s husband — who was not at home when the fire started — told police his wife often relaxed in the mornings.
The fire destroyed much of the back side of the structure and spread into the home’s garage, helped by a strong breeze that blew Wednesday. Sutherlin considers the home a total loss, estimating the damage at about $200,000.
Sego said he became worried after noticing two cars parked in the driveway. He didn’t know the couple that lived there but didn’t find anyone outside who called themselves the owner.
He and another neighbor darted around the perimeter of the house, knocking on windows and banging on doors trying to get someone’s attention.
As Sego pounded on one window, the glass shattered and even more smoke poured outside. He found a brick in the yard and tossed it through another window and was again engulfed in smoke, he said.
Eventually, he learned from firefighters at the scene that a woman had perished the fire despite his efforts, he said.
When firefighters arrived on scene, their first priority was to check the home to rescue anyone trapped inside, Sutherlin said. They weren’t immediately able to find anyone and turned their attention to dousing the flames.
Crews from the Buck Creek Township, Fortville-Vernon Township and Greenfield fire departments came to the scene Wednesday to fight the fire.
Once they determined Murray had been trapped inside, police officers were called to investigate, Sutherlin said.
Deputies and detectives from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department came to the home after the fire had been extinguished to talk with Murray’s family members and witnesses to the fire.
They roped off the property with crime scene tape and called evidence technicians to the scene. A representative from the Hancock County Coroner’s Office identified Murray’s body.
An autopsy would be performed on Murray later this week to confirm her cause of the death, officials said.