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Retired Superior teacher dies in house fire Monday

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Fatal fire graphic.
Fatal fire graphic.
Superior Fire Dept. Bat. Chi... (Download MP3)

SUPERIOR, WI  (WSAU) -  An elderly Superior woman is dead after fire engulfed her home yesterday. The fire was reported just after 11:00 a.m. on Billings Drive.

The victim was retired music teacher Jean Sweeney, who officials believe was 76-years-old. Sweeney was active with Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church and was also director of their bell choir.

Superior Fire Department Battalion Chief Vern Johnson says the fire started long before anyone noticed it. He says the lower level and the attic were both ablaze before firefighters arrived. “It wasn’t a spectacular sight. The wind was kind of pushing the smoke down a ravine into a bay, a small bay behind the house, and there was a lot of bushes and shrubbery in front of the house that kind of camouflaged the flame.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but Johnson believes the starting point was downstairs. “It’s probably going to remain technically under investigation. We have some ideas, but all of our theories point to a basement utility area, but the actual cause has not been determined.”

Johnson says they saw a car in the driveway when they arrived, and neighbors led them to believe Sweeney was home. He says the intensity of the fire made it difficult to go inside to search for Sweeney. “The crews did a number of searches, and with mounting frustration, as each team was driven back by mounting smoke and debris.”

After the fire was brought under control, Johnson says crews were able to re-enter the burned out split-entry home and search for the victim. “One of the crews did a little bit of recognizance, and found the victim located in the lower level of the home, actually not very far from the stairway and pretty close to an area where they figure she spend a lot of her time.”

Fire crews were on the scene until about 6:45 p.m. Monday. The fire investigation will continue Tuesday.

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