Emergency responders had a difficult time reaching a woman who died in a fire in Rehoboth because the doors in her home were blocked from the inside, according to the Rehoboth Police Department.
Neighbors tried to alert 66-year-old Donna Marques to the danger Sunday morning, pounding on her Pine Grove Drive door and screaming, but could not get in.
“We noticed smoke pouring out of the vents in the top of the house. My friend was banging on the door trying to see if anyone was inside,” said 18-year-old David Wilkins of Dighton, who was walking to his friend’s home when they saw the fire. “We didn’t see any flames the whole time. Just a lot of smoke.”
Wilkins called 911 and waited with his friend for police.
“As soon as we hung up the phone, we could hear police sirens,” he said.
Rehoboth Police Sergeant Mark Rossi said that police got a 911 call at around 9:46 a.m. Rossi and his partner were the first on scene, and neighbors told them that Marques was still inside the home.
Rossi said that he and his partner tried to get into the home but all the doors were locked. His partner ran around to the back of the house and kicked in a back door.
“He was met with a wall of smoke and had to retreat back,” said Rossi.
Rossi, armed with a battering ram, knocked in a second back door, but said that an obstruction blocked it from opening. The home, he said, was full of boxes and clothes and other items that made it difficult for emergency responders to get inside.
Rossi and his partner ran to the front of the house as the Fire Department arrived, and smashed open the front with the battering ram, but that door, too, was blocked from inside.
Firefighters got into the building through a back door, he said. They found Marques in the basement, and unsuccessfully tried to revive her, according to Rehoboth Fire Chief Robert Pray.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it probably originated in the lower level, he said. Rehoboth police ruled out foul play.
Neighbors said Marques had lived in the home for at least 18 years.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org