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‘It was so hot … it was like standing in the fire’
Passerby tried to warn 73-year-old victim of blaze
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Gainesville firefighters work the scene of a house fire on Clarks Bridge Road in Gainesville on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. A 73-year-old woman died in the fire. - photo by Austin Steele

As thick smoke poured out of a single-story duplex, Melvin Wells beat on the doors to try to alert whoever might be inside.

Wells was picking up a pizza at the nearby Domino’s after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, when he saw smoke. At first he thought it was a barbecue, but the color of the smoke made him think otherwise and call 911.

“The windows were pushing in and out. You could hear them crinkling,” Wells said.

Worried that the windows were going to blow out, Wells backed up and headed to the next-door neighbor.

The neighbor informed him that there was an elderly tenant, whose car was in the driveway.

“It was so hot by that time, I couldn’t even stay on the porch. It was like standing in the fire,” he said.

One woman died in the fire on Clarks Bridge Road off Limestone Parkway, according to fire department spokesman Capt. Zachary Brackett.

Brackett identified her as 73-year-old Janis Gilman. Brackett said her next of kin was notified.

Brackett said the single-story duplex had heavy fire in Gilman’s unit, though the cause and origin of the fire has not been released.

“The initial strategy on this was to perform some aggressive search and extinguishment, because we did have a possibility of an entrapment upon dispatch,” Brackett said.

Brackett said four investigators were on scene around 6 p.m. working on what caused the fatal fire.

No further information was released.

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