Donna & Claude West
(The top 10 stories of 2011 have been selected by employees of the Daily Democrat. This is No. 7.)
By J SWYGART
The deaths of a Decatur couple in a fire in their home was voted as the No. 7 news story of 2011.
Claude E. West, 74, and his wife Donna K. West, 71, died in a house fire at 720 Elm Street, Decatur, in the early morning hours of Aug. 11.
Both died of smoke inhalation, according to Assistant Fire Chief Jim Hitchcock.
Officials of the Decatur Fire Department said the fire was caused by overloading of the electrical circuits in the home.
Hitchcock also reported that there were no working smoke detectors in the house.
He estimated damage to the dwelling at $30,000.
The location of the house is only about three blocks from the fire station, but even the arrival of firefighters within just four minutes of getting the alarm was not enough to save the lives of the West couple.
A neighbor of the Wests, Carol Whisman, awoke and smelled smoke, then called in the alarm shortly before 2 a.m.
The firefighters had the flames out in 15 to 20 minutes, with almost all the fire damage confined to the interior of the home, Chief Les Marckel said.
The West couple’s two dogs also perished in the blaze.