Fire claims life of 82-year-old woman; blaze caused by heater

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A house fire in the Central Community claimed the life of an 82-year-old woman Saturday morning and destroyed the rear part of the residence.
   Firefighters found the body of Frances Jean Stanley within minutes of responding to her home at 137 Central Drive, Johnson City. According to investigators, she was dead when rescuers found her, and her death was probably the result of smoke inhalation.
   "It's a real tragedy when something like this happens," said Carter County Sheriff John Henson.
   Firefighters from the Central, West Carter County and Watauga Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the scene along with members of the Carter County Rescue Squad and officers from the Carter County Sheriff's Department.
   CCSD Inv. Laverne Julian said the investigation revealed the fire started in the rear of the home, and Stanley was found in a bedroom near the front of the residence. "She was found lying in the floor in front of the bedroom door," he said, adding that she probably realized that the house was on fire and was trying to exit.
   According to Julian, the fire generated a lot of smoke and heat. "It was so hot in there that some things in the home melted," he said.
   It was the smoke and heat that probably claimed Stanley's life, according to Henson. "The smoke and heat got to her," he said. "Probably by the time she realized the house was on fire, she just didn't have time to get out."
   Electrical problems in the home caused the fire, according to Henson and Julian. "It started from a base board heater," he said. "The cold temperatures we've had lately have been unusual. People are using more heat."
   When temperatures drop and homeowners heat their homes, dangers can arise even if caution is used. Heaters, such as the base board heater that caused the fire in Stanley's home, can present real problems, according to Henson.
   "What most people don't realize is that those base board heaters don't have a thermostat on them," he said. "When it gets so cold, those things will just turn on. There is really no way to turn them off." He added that even turning the heating unit off will not necessarily prevent it from turning on again.