FREDONIA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Several fire crews in Chautauqua County responded to a large house fire in Fredonia early Tuesday morning.
According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, fire crews responded to 111 Center Street just before 6:00 a.m. Tuesday.
The Fredonia Fire Chief said the two-story house was fully engulfed when crews arrived and all fire hydrants in the area were frozen so water had to be trucked in which made it difficult to fight the fire. The house also collapsed onto itself.
The sheriff's office said 70-year-old Patricia Ulkins was unable to escape from a lower apartment and was killed in the fire. Uklins' body was found in the fire debris and turned over to the Chautauqua County Coroner.
The occupants of the upper apartment were able to escape without injury and a second occupant from the lower apartment was able to break a bedroom window and escape with minor injuries. She was treated at a local hospital and released.
"We had fire rolling out the front door at us, so it made for quite a difficult attack, specially with no water," Fredonia Fire Department Chief Kurt Maytum said. "The main difficulties that we had this morning were getting a water supply. When we arrived at the scene and wanted to make connection to the hydrants, all of the hydrants in the immediate area are frozen, due to the current weather condition. it was very difficult at that point to be able to get water supply.
Neighbor Michiah Wojcinski said, "With it being 12 degrees and as cold as it is, I know that they were trying to get the hydrants going."
Officials say it is believed the fire occurred on the first floor near the center of the home and due to the amount of damage it is unknown why the fire started. It has been ruled as undetermined but the sheriff's office said it is not suspicious in nature. The investigation is ongoing.
A total of 10 crews were called out to assist and five water transport vehicles were used to bring in water.
"The challenge that we're having at the moment is because of the fire and the collapse of the structure, the difficulties are when it pancakes down like that, it layers on top. Not only do you have embers and fires that continue underneath, but we have to dig through that rubble to get to do any investigation as well," Chief Maytum added.