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"It just rips your heart out": dispatcher distraught after woman, 80, dies in house fire

Posted at 7:57 AM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 06:51:47-04

YATES, N.Y. (WKBW) — Deputies in Orleans County have identified the woman killed in an early-morning fire that destroyed a home in Yates Tuesday.

They said first responders found Millie Holt, 80, and a dog dead inside the home on Roosevelt Highway. An autopsy on Holt's body will be performed by the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.

Those who tried to save her are taking her death hard, said Orleans County Undersheriff Christopher Bourke.

"It just rips your heart out that you can't get there," he said.

According to Bourke, a dispatcher stayed on the line with the woman until she could no longer speak. The dispatcher, who Bourke described as "distraught," even got Holt back on the phone despite their calls disconnecting multiple times.

"This one was really personal. It went from speaking to the lady to the lady slowly coughing, not being able to respond, so it's a tough one today, it really is," Bourke said. "You can't say enough about our public safety dispatchers and our 911 dispatchers."

Fire crews started battling the fire at just before 5 a.m. The sheriff's office said the doors to the home were blocked by numerous items, which along with heavy smoke and flames complicated their efforts.

"It didn't matter if there was clutter or no clutter, there was so much fire and smoke, they just could not get in," Bourke said.

Multiple firefighters suffered multiple injuries, and one deputy hurt his hand trying to break through glass to get inside.

The cause of the fire is being investigated. A wood stove was found to be burning, but that is not the definitive cause, Bourke said.

The home will likely be bulldozed once the investigation is done, Bourke said.