Denise G. Callahan
Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
Jul. 14–The Butler County Coroner’s Office has identified three people killed in a fire in West Chester early Tuesday morning.
Thomas Kozee Sr., 80; Carole Kozee, 77; and Jennipher Kozee, 56, died at area hospitals after the fire that happened in a mobile home park. Smoke inhalation was ruled as the preliminary cause of death for each.
A firefighter is also suffering from severe dehydration after the blaze.
West Chester Twp. Fire Chief Rick Prinz said the three people could not be saved. A firefighter in his 40s was still in intensive care suffering severe dehydration and kidney problems. The chief said he would likely be there a couple days.
“We do expect him to completely recover…,” Prinz said. “It’s just so humid and with the amount of personal protective equipment that we wear, and the strenuous work that needs to be done, it just adds up. You don’t necessarily need to be next to the fire to be dehydrated. It’s throwing the ladders and pulling the hose and performing CPR and pulling victims, all those things it just takes a toll.”
Prinz said a police officer was patrolling in the area at around midnight when he saw smoke and located the home on fire on Ericle Circle in the Princeton Crossing mobile home park. Prinz said it took about 20 minutes to extinguish the fire. Crews performed CPR on the victims before they were transported to local hospitals, where they were pronounced dead, he said.
Officials said most of the fire was in the back bedroom, and the roof partially collapsed. A wall also collapsed, but most of the home is intact.
Prinz said the township and state fire marshals and Butler County fire investigation team are working to determine the cause and origin of the fire. He had no information on whether foul play might be involved.
“Each fire is separate, each fire is different, each fire has dependent factors and they’re all unique,” Prinz said about the investigation. “I can’t speculate on how long it will take, certainly there’s outside influences that effect how we determine the cause and origin. We’re waiting for the coroner to rule in.”
The past week has been difficult on the township’s first responders with Tuesday’s triple fatal fire, a murder-suicide incident involving an elderly couple, a fatal car crash and a couple of suicides, said Barb Wilson, the township’s director of public information and engagement.
“It’s kind of rough when you go into a career, and so many people when they enter the fire service, it’s about wanting to help people and save lives, and having that as your mission when you enter a career field, and then the helplessness to not be able to do that,” Wilson said. “Having that many cases at once has to be discouraging.”
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