Firefighters: Clutter hindered woman’s rescue from fatal fire

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by KHOU.com staff & Tim Wetzel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 7:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 6:33 AM

HOUSTON – Firefighters fought desperately to try and rescue a 66-year-old woman trapped in a burning south Houston home late Monday, but the clutter inside made it difficult for them to reach her.

Glady's Cotton died from her injuries, according to the Houston Fire Department.

The fire broke out at Cotton's home on Sherwood Drive at Porter Avenue around 11:30 p.m.  Neighbors said flames were shooting from the one-story home.

“It was just blazing,” a neighbor told KHOU 11 News. “I could see fire—not just smoke—fire.”

Firefighters made a fast attack but said they had trouble finding the elderly woman inside.

“In this home this particular individual has numerous, numerous video tapes, clothes, lots of furniture, and it made it very difficult for firefighters to enter,” said HFD spokesman Jay Evans. “So they had to go and remove all of the windows in order to make access to this fire.”

Rescuers cut through a wall so they could make a bathroom window large enough to rescue the woman. She was transported to the hospital but died a short time later, HFD said.

Neighbors say Cotton always kept the outside of her home neat and clean so they were surprised to learn that she had so much stuff on the inside.

"I never went in her house. I never knew she had that problem with hoarding that kind of stuff," said Sherman Broomfield, a neighbor. "She was a dearly beloved woman in the neighborhood. Everybody knew her. I’m just saddened."

Friends say Cotton was known for her smile and her voice.

"A beautiful singer, she sang gospel," said Carol Sophus, a neighbor. "she was a church- going woman." 

Homicide and arson investigators were called in to determine a cause for the blaze.  Family members suspect a space heater could have ignited the fire, but that has not been confirmed.

Cotton had three daughters and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She had lived in the home for 30 years.

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