Elderly Orchard Mesa fire victim dies

Richard Williams, his wife and their daughter made their regular stop at his mother’s Orchard Mesa home Saturday afternoon, emptying trash bins, tidying up her home and making her some sandwiches.

Three hours later, a neighbor noticed smoke from Phyllis Williams’ home at 198 Rincon Drive. Firefighters pulled the 86-year-old woman out, but she suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation and died Saturday night at St. Mary’s Hospital, her son told The Daily Sentinel.

On Sunday, Richard Williams and his family returned to the charred house, picking through photo albums and anything else salvageable and finding out what more they could learn about an event he called “overwhelming.”

Right now, they don’t have much to go on.

The Mesa County Coroner’s Office said it wouldn’t have any information to release about Phyllis Williams’ death until today.

Grand Junction Fire Department spokesman Mike Page said Sunday investigators were still looking into the cause of the fire, which firefighters suspected had been smoldering for some time.

“I suspect it will take some time,” he said.

Richard Williams, who learned about the fire after getting a call at home from a battalion chief, said his mother’s condition wasn’t stable enough for medical personnel to fly her to a Denver hospital burn unit.

Six cats also died in the blaze, which was reported around 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Richard Williams said his mother moved from Glenwood Springs into the house about four years ago to take care of her sister, who was suffering from kidney failure. Phyllis Williams decided to remain in the house after her sister died, declining to go into a nursing home unless there was a medical reason to do so.

Neighbor Betty Osborne said Phyllis Williams owned three cats but took in and fed several strays, given the prolonged cold weather.

“She would take in any cat in the neighborhood,” Osborne said.


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