German Twp. Fire Chief: Fatal fire accelerated by oxygen tanks

Neighbors in a mobile home park tried to reach the victim of a fatal fire on Thursday night, but flames engulfed the structure too quickly.

Dorris Rehs, 70, of German Twp. died in the fire at the Happy Valley Mobile Estates park, according to the Clark County Coroner’s office.

>>RELATED: 70-year-old woman identified in German Twp. trailer park fire

Her family members said she struggled with health issues for many years and had recently had a fractured hip. She’d only been back in her home from the hospital for about three weeks, family members said.

“That would keep her from being able to evacuate very quickly, so that’s one thing that we’re looking into at this point,” German Twp. Fire and EMS Chief Tim Holman said.

Rehs was on home oxygen, Holman said, and was also a smoker.

“We don’t know if she possibly was smoking,” he said.

There were also oxygen tanks in the home that exploded, he said, accelerating the fire.

Neighbors attempted to rescue the woman by throwing a cinder block through a window.

India Adams was sitting on her porch with family members when she saw smoke coming from the mobile home.

“By the time we got over there, the flames were like coming out of the whole top of the trailer,” Adams said.

Her niece threw the cinder block, she said, but handles to the doors were too hot to touch. Firefighters responded quickly, she said, but the flames had already engulfed the home.

“Everybody did what they could do to try to save the lady,” she said.

Firefighters arrived at the scene eight minutes after the first 9-1-1 call was received, Holman said. The fire could have smoldered for a while before it was spotted, he said.

“I don’t think anyone did anything wrong,” he said. “I just think there was a delay in seeing the fire.”

Firefighters hosed down neighboring homes to prevent them from catching fire, he said, but some had melting damage from the extreme heat. Mobile homes tend to burn quickly because of the materials they’re made of, Holman said.

Rehs worked as a custodian for a local school for several years, family said.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing as of Friday evening.

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