One dead in retirement community fire

7:46 PM, Sep 18, 2012   |    comments
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LEALMAN, Fla.- It started quickly with smoke billowing from a first floor apartment in the Paradise Shores retirement community.

"My husband... he smelled smoke and he asked me if something was on fire in the kitchen. We came out here heard all the sirens going off," said Dale Dombroski, who lives several buildings over.

She and others walked outside to find part of Building 6 on fire shortly before 2:00 Tuesday and elderly neighbor Katherine Pisano desperately trying to put out the flames.

"She had a pot of water, a small steel pot, heaving water into the window which didn't do much," said Matthew Catalano. "The flames were already coming out of the window."

Catalano, along with several passing motorists, stopped to help.

"The mother we had out front and she said her daughter was still in the building. That's when we decided to do what we can do," said Catalano.

The three tried to get inside, but say it was too late.

"The smoke, it was like a wall. You couldn't breathe. It took you over," said Catalano. "We even tried going in through the front but it wasn't happening."

Fire crews arrived and reportedly had the fire out in under 10 minutes. It wasn't soon enough though for Pasano's daughter, 65-year-old Phyllis Wells, who was found dead inside.

"Oh, my God, it's terrible," said Dombroski. "To watch somebody burn up like that, or to even know somebody burned up, it's gotta be the worst way to die."

Phyllis Wells would have turned 66 on Wednesday, Sept. 19. Fire investigators are looking into the cause, but so far say the fire does not seem suspicious.

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