Woman dies in Prospect fire

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Prospect resident Charlotte Levine died in an electrical fire at her home at 111 Clark Hill Road Sunday. - LARAINE WESCHLER

PROSPECT — The only reported storm-related death in Connecticut occurred Sunday when a tree branch fell across wires leading to a house at 111 Clark Hill Road, sparking an electrical fire that killed an 89-year-old woman and seriously injured her husband.

Responding to the call shortly before 5:30 a.m., Fire Marshal Keith Griffin said he found Charlotte Levine, who owned the single-family house with her husband James, badly burned near the back door. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

A man who lives next door heard a popping noise and saw fire coming from some of the windows, Griffin said. The neighbor managed to pull 92-year-old James Levine out of the house before flames enveloped it entirely, Griffin said.

“There was fire from floor to ceiling,” Griffin said.

James Levine was listed in critical but stable condition Sunday at Bridgeport Hospital’s burn center.

Capt. John Vance of the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department suffered an electrical shock while fighting the fire. He was treated in the emergency room of Saint Mary’s Hospital. Lt. Steve Lavaway was treated and released from the same hospital for smoke inhalation, heatstroke and dehydration, authorities said. Both men returned to work later that day with no injuries.

Lavaway said he took the first line of firefighters in through the back door and knocked down the main body of fire in the kitchen in the first 15 to 20 minutes before going outside to get a new air pack.

He put a ladder against the side of the house and was climbing to the roof when a jolt of electricity hit him and sent him flying off the ladder, he said. The whole house was electrified because of its aluminum siding, he said. After being shocked, Lavaway continued to fight the fire and went on another call. He didn’t notice anything wrong until he lay down later and found he couldn’t breathe, he said.

I don’t know if it was scary or not or the adrenaline still be there, but it’s part of the job, I guess,” Lavaway said.

Vance said he was coming out of the front door when he grabbed the railing and got shocked.

It looked like I got tazed for about 10 seconds,” Vance said. “I screamed out, ‘Wow, I just got electrocuted.”

Vance was back to work a few hours later after being released from later hospital.

After the two men were electrocuted, Assistant Chief Jay Kolodziej pulled the firefighters out of the house and waited for Connecticut Light & Power to shot off the power to the house, he said. The fire was extinguished shortly thereafter, he said.

My entire crew did an excellent job,” Kolodzeij said. He also thanked the Bethany and Cheshire fire departments for mutual aid.

After the fire was out, firefighters entered to find Charlotte Levine’s body.

“We had to get fire trucks there and water on it before we could go in,” Conway said.

Mayor Robert J. Chatfield said the Levines were active parishioners at St. Anthony Church in town. They have children who live in Middlebury, Chatfield said.

“On behalf of the whole town, we send our sympathies out to the family,” Chatfield said.

The house sustained heavy smoke damage. Firefighters had to break windows and a hole in the roof to ventilate the building. Part of the second floor collapsed, according to Vance. He said it was a total loss.

Emergency crews blocked off the whole neighborhood until the scene was cleared at 7:30 a.m., Conway said. Griffin continues to investigate the fire with the aid of the state fire marshal.