Woman Dies In Overnight House Fire, Crews Say Rescue Was Impossible

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OTTO – A woman has died following a fire in Cattaraugus County that first responders say was so intense it made rescue attempts impossible.

Several fire departments responded to a North Otto Road home around 2:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Otto Fire Chief Anthony Riehle was asleep when the call first came in, he says the extent of the blaze made it impossible to perform a rescue.

“When I pulled up I saw a gentleman in the front yard frantic, screaming that ‘she was upstairs,’ and I had fire pushing out all of the downstairs windows and heavy black smoke pushing out all of the upstairs windows,” said Riehle. “Being the first one here, there was no means to attempt a rescue, based on my best training and knowledge, even if we had the people and resources, I may not have been able to send them in the way the fire was.”

Two children and a man were taken to Buffalo area hospitals, authorities have not yet identified the three.

Neighbor Edward Crawford says he is devastated to hear the news.

“It is tough, they are a great family,” said Crawford. “Right around the holidays, it is just tragic, it is a lot for a little community.”

Crawford says the four were a close family.

The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office Fire Investigation Team is working to determine the cause, however, Chief Riehle says that a preliminary investigation points to a wood stove in the back of the house.

He says the house will likely be demolished and the Red Cross will assist the family.


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