Senior citizen dies in fire

March 25, 2009 3:03:13 PM PDT
A senior citizen who died after a fire in his home may have been trying to put it out.The fire in a home on Osmond Street in East Falls was confined to the basement and extinguished quickly.

Still, it claimed a life.

A 65-year-old man who lived there with his wife was found unconscious at the basement door behind the house near a home fire extinguisher.

"His feet were inside the door. His head was outside the door and upper torso. A neighbor started CPR on him," Commissioner Lloyd Ayers of the Philadelphia Fire Department said.

Jim Sylvester administered CPR to his neighbor as his traumatized wife watched.

"I don't know how long I was doing it, but I was tired enough that I was yelling for someone else to take over," Sylvester said.

Arriving paramedics took over, but couldn't save him.

Neighbors say the retired postal worker and his wife lived in the house for nearly 40 years.

She escaped onto their balcony and through a neighbor's home and is now hospitalized in stable condition.

Investigators smelled a strong solvent in the basement and are trying to determine if he had an accident while working on a project.

Ten people have lost their lives in Philadelphia fires so far this year.

Action News has learned that most of them were senior citizens. The fire commissioner says the problem is not a lack of working smoke detectors, because many victims. like those today, have them.

"You have to do the right thing. You have to get out of the way of the fire." Ayers said.

Officials suspect some seniors are hesitant to leave a lifetime of mementos. The trend is so disturbing the fire department is launching a fire protection program targeting senior citizens this spring.

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