INDIANAPOLIS -- A 58-year-old man, who Indianapolis fire investigators say was wheelchair-bound, died in a house fire early Wednesday. A 63-year-old woman was transported to Eskenazi Hospital in critical condition, according to authorities on the scene.
The fire erupted in the 1200 block of Vandeman St., which is near the Fountain Square district. IFD crews were dispatched just after 1 a.m.
"When firefighters got here, there was heavy fire showing from the structure command ordered a defensive operation immediately," said Rita Reith with IFD. "However, several firefighters had already made their way into the structure and were able to pull out the first victim, which was a female, then the second victim."
IFD ordered the structure evacuated at 1:22 a.m., shortly after they found the second victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene. He was identified as Roderick Smiley, 58. His cause of death was ruled as thermal injuries and inhalation of products of combustion.
They had the fire under control by about 2:30 a.m.
"Family is here on scene and they tell us the man has lived here his whole life--that the woman who was inside was his girlfriend," said Reith. "Firefighters were very familiar with the house--they come here quite a bit, they come here frequently on EMS runs. The man is wheelchair-bound, so they come here quite a bit and they knew prior to getting on scene the layout of the structure of the house."
According to family members, there were working space heaters inside the structure. They will be a part of what investigators look for as they look for a cause. IFD said the home didn't have any working smoke detectors.
The department said there have been 22 working structure fires this month, including four fires at vacant homes. In November, IFD responded to 61 working structure fires, with 29 of those involving vacant homes.