MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas - Investigators with the Montgomery County Fire Marshal's Office are investigating several costly recent fires, one of which burned about 20 percent of a woman's body.
A woman was critically injured in fire on Thursday in the Pelican Bay Subdivision on FM 1097 West in Willis.
Shortly after 4 p.m., neighbors reported that a home located at 12813 Pelican Island Drive was on fire and that the home's occupant, 67-year-old Denise Obrien, was severely burned.
A crew of firefighters from the North Montgomery County Fire Department responded from their station a short distance away, followed shortly by a crew from the Montgomery Fire Department station near Bentwater.
The arriving crews said they began immediately treating Obrien while working to stop the fire from spreading.
The waterfront homes in the Pelican Island neighborhood are closely spaced together, and the windy conditions threatened to spread the fire to houses on either side of the burning home.
A North Montgomery County crew said they encountered heavy fire and smoke conditions inside the home and reported that the fire had spread into the attic. Authorities said a second crew of firefighters then cut a hole in the roof to allow the heat and toxic smoke to escape, allowing the interior crew to quickly bring the fire under control. The home was heavily damaged, but the fire did not spread to adjacent homes only five feet away, investigators said.
Paramedics said Obrien was transferred to a waiting helicopter at the nearby fire station. She was flown to the Memorial Hermann Burn Center in Houston, where she is in stable condition with second- and third-degree burns to about 20 percent of her body.
Despite her injuries, authorities said the victim was able to tell investigators what happened.
According to investigators, the victim said she normally uses oxygen at home and was trying to light a cigarette when there was a flash and her clothing caught on fire. She said she made her way to the front door, where neighbors found her and cared for her until help arrived.
Two other recent home fires in The Woodlands and Pinehurst were heavily damaged in blazes, causing over $1 million in damages to each property.
MCFMO fire investigators and engineers said they are continuing to analyze evidence gathered at the scenes to determine the cause of these fires.
The first fire happened on Feb. 1 at 38 Rhapsody Bend. Investigators said the fire started on the second floor and quickly spread to the attic, forcing firefighters to withdraw from inside the home.
On Feb. 25, another major fire broke out in a large home located on Pinehurst Loop in Southwest Montgomery County. Magnolia firefighters were joined by crews from several other departments, but high winds helped the fire spread in the attic.
On Feb. 22, firefighters responded to reports of a smoke smell in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 27707 Glen Loch in The Woodlands. One of the church staff members had gone into the building around 12 p.m. and noticed the smell, but was unable to find its source, authorities said.
The Woodlands Fire Department responded and crews said they discovered the remnants of a fire that had burned itself out in the church chapel.
MCFMO fire investigators and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene. Fire investigators said they determined that the fire had been intentionally set, and together with MCSO Deputies, determined that a rear door to the Church was open and may have been how the church was entered.
MCFMO Police Officers and MCSO are conducting a joint criminal investigation, and anyone with information is asked to contact the MCFMO at (936) 538-8288. To make an anonymous tip, call Crime Stoppers at (800) 392-(STOP) 7867.
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