Elderly woman dies in accidental fire

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January 11, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---A heater is likely to blame for the fire that killed 67-year-old Oria Sumrall.

It happened just after midnight in the 3000 block of Sterling Road. That's just off River Watch Parkway and Stevens Creek Road.

Investigators say the fire that took Ms. Sumrall's life was accidental, and it all started from her trying to keep warm.

Mary Busby returned today to the home she once lived in, a home now damaged from an overnight blaze.

But her emotions flow from what was lost in the fire: her best friend's life.

"I can't believe they couldn't get to her in time," she said. "I just can't believe that she's gone. It's not sinking in at all.

"But she was good to everybody."

Just after midnight last night, officials were called out to a home on Sterling Road off River Watch Parkway.

67-year-old Oria Sumrall was trying to escape a fire officials say started from a heater on the wall in the back part of her home.

While Ms. Sumrall was not burned, an autopsy shows smoke inhalation took her life.

"That's crazy," said Carolyn Gillican, who lives next door. "She was a really nice lady."

Gillican describes her neighbor as a nice lady who kept to herself.

"She never really came out that much," Gillican said. "She just stayed back there, but she was real nice."

The victim's two cats died in the fire...cats Ms. Busby says she considered friends.

And now a friend is left wondering how a woman who she says was willing to give so much could be taken in this way.

"I'm trying to make it sink in," Ms. Busby said. "I don't want to believe it, believe she's gone."

Unfortunately, Ms. Sumrall had no smoke detector. Fire investigator Lt. G.B. Hannan believes having one would have saved her life.

Ms. Sumrall lived in the back part of the house, and she rented out the front. Two people were home at the time of the fire. They called 9-1-1, but officials say they had no key to Ms. Sumrall's part of the house, so it was hard to get to her.

Most of Ms. Sumrall's family lives in New York and Virginia. They came to town today to make funeral arrangements.

The fire department wants us to remind you they offer free smoke detectors to the elderly and those of low income.

You can call 706-821-2929 to request yours.