February 6, 2007
MARTINEZ, Ga.---A Columbia County woman died in a fire that destroyed her home early this morning. It happened so fast there was nothing the family could do.
The fire started just after 1 o'clock on Collins Drive. That's in Martinez, off Old Belair Road.
The whole front part of the house is gutted and it's really just a charred mess now, but that's not the biggest loss. The woman who lived there couldn't get out, and neighbors, friends, and family are mourning her loss.
"I just loved Victoria," said Ethel McElroy. "She was like an auntie to me."
It was a 1 a.m. wake-up call Ethel never wanted to hear.
"I woke up--I was asleep--I heard some noise like something was popping," she said.
The house of her neighbor, 87-year-old Victoria Quiller, was on fire.
When firefighters put the flames out, they found Victoria's body at the back of the house. They say she had no working smoke detectors.
That could be why Victoria didn't get out in time.
Ethel says Victoria recently started losing her eyesight. She tells us she often took Victoria to run errands.
Nephew David Roscoe is having a hard time too.
"Just shocking, you know, to wake up to that kind of news," he said.
He got a phone call after his own nephew saw the fire and tried to help.
"I think he tried to break the big window in front and get her out, but said he couldn't get in," David said.
Now, family and friends are forced to face reality.
"I was shocked. I really was shocked when I heard that I lost Victoria," Ethel said.
"She was just nice," David said. "All I can say about her...very nice lady. She will be missed, I tell you that."
That was definitely evident today, as a seemingly endless stream of cars drove past the house and people stopped to talk to News 12 about Victoria.
Firefighters suspect a space heater may be to blame for the fire.
Firefighters stress that you should check your smoke detectors and make sure they are working properly.
There are about 275 fire deaths each year in Georgia.
If you need a smoke detector in Augusta, the fire department is installing them free for low income residents and the elderly. Call 706-821-2930 to see if you qualify.