A firefighter walks by the tragic scene of a blaze that claimed the life of an elderly woman at 107 Boulevard Ave. in Lincoln early Tuesday morning. Photo by Ernest A. Brown
LINCOLN â€” A 91-year-old Lincoln woman died in her bed in a smokey house fire early Tuesday morning despite the reported attempts of her 90-year-old husband to alert her.
Fire officials identified the victim as Jeannette Barry. Her husband, Henry Barry, made it out of the house safely and is believed to be staying with the couple's son.
According to Fire Chief Timothy Griffin of the Lonsdale Fire District, firefighters were called to the scene at around 6:30 a.m. They found the basement of the single-family, woodframe dwelling at 107 Boulevard Avenue fully engulfed in flames, and Henry Barry standing outside.
Griffin said the fast-moving fire had compromised the safety of the floors, so firefighters had to gain entry to the house by climbing through a side window on the first floor. Jeannette Barry, who was in a first-floor bedroom, was dead when they reached her. It is believed that she perished due to smoke inhalation, he said.
Griffin said the fire started in the basement of the tidy Cape, but the cause is still under investigation. The State Fire Marshal and state Medical Examiner's Office had been called to the scene, but the fire was not considered to be suspicious, he added.
Fire crews from Lincoln and Cumberland battled the blaze, which took about three hours to fully extinguish. Griffin said this was mostly due to the floors being so badly burned that they were structurally unsafe, making it difficult for firefighters to get in and attack the flames from the inside.
According to other news sources and video reports, Henry Barry said he had gone to the basement to use his computer and smelled smoke. He said he got upstairs to the kitchen door and opened it to let some smoke out but then couldn't reach the bedroom where his wife was sleeping because of the density of the smoke. He said he then used his cell phone to call 911.
Barry told reporters that he and Jeannette met at 18 and married in 1945. The couple has three grown children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He said he had built the house on Boulevard Avenue himself, with the help of a relative, in 1948.