Fire claimed the life of a Timberville woman in her home early Thursday morning, according to the Rockingham County Department of Fire and Rescue.
Emergency personnel found Jean Ritchie Sager, 72, unconscious shortly after 5:30 a.m. when they arrived at her home at 236 Center St. A passer-by called in the fire after seeing flames through the home’s front door, according to the fire department.
“She was taken out to the ambulance, where she was unresponsive, and CPR was started,” said Lt. Joseph Mullens, an assistant fire marshal for the county.
Advanced emergency care, which includes creating an advanced airway and administering medication to restart the heart, was performed on Sager, Mullens said. But she succumbed to injuries sustained in the fire, which was contained to the living room.
“The fire was put out relatively quickly,” he said, but “[o]ur primary concern was victim search and rescue.”
An oil-filled radiator heater placed too close to a couch, causing it to ignite, was pinpointed as the source of the fire’s origin, Mullens said. The home’s smoke detector was not working, he said, and that also may have played a role in Sager’s death.
“We just want to make sure people check their smoke detectors and make sure they’re working properly,” Mullens said.
Sager, the only person in the home at the time of the fire, was well known for her love of stray kittens, many of which she found homes for, according to her obituary in today’s Daily News-Record, and had five, three of which also died in the fire. Her survivors include two daughters, who live in Maryland.
In addition to crews from Rockingham County, the Broadway Emergency Squad and Timberville and Broadway volunteer fire departments responded to the fire call.
The Timberville Police Department and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office also assisted at the scene.