STAR, MS (WLBT) – A fire in rural Rankin County claimed the life of an elderly woman Wednesday.
The call came into the Star Fire Department around 2:45 p.m.
Now, a Rankin County family is dealing with the tragic loss of a long-time matriarch.
According to fire officials, it is a wake up call for elderly residents and those who care for them to install and maintain smoke alarms.
Family members of 91-year-old Ida Lee Butler kept hoping that she wasn't inside her Ainsworth Road home in Star as firefighters battled the flames that were overtaking it.
"It took them a while, but they finally found her," said Butler's niece Floree Kitchens.
As word of the blaze spread throughout the rural community, Star volunteer firefighters learned of the possibility that Butler was in the home.
"I called everybody that I thought might have picked her up, which some of them do, but no one did. They were trying to find her. We were trying to console her grandson, because that's the only one she has you know," said Kitchens.
Loved ones at the scene said she lived in the wood-framed house with her grandson Billy Butler.
Sadly, after an exhaustive search firefighters found Butler in her bedroom.
Preliminary investigations indicated the fire may have started in the fireplace.
"When we got here it was fully involved, and the roof had already collapsed. It's an old house. It went up quick. We did not find any presence of smoke detectors, which may have helped her out," said Star Fire Chief Lee Boggs.
Relatives said Butler had two sons who preceded her in death.
She had just celebrated her 91st birthday on February 6th.
Fire officials said it is especially important to have working smoke detectors that can provide the extra time critical in helping older residents escape.
"Keep their chimney cleaned out. Keep grates in front of your fireplaces. Watch your electric heaters. Don't put them too close to anything. With smoke detectors, it may have given her an early warning and could have gotten her out of the house," added Chief Boggs.
The Florence Volunteer Fire Department assisted in fighting the fatal blaze.
The State Fire Marshal's Office is also investigating.
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