Candle started fire that killed Orlando woman

By Jim Buynak | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted January 2, 2003

Passers-by and neighbors tried to battle the blaze, but a 69-year-old Orlando woman died in a New Year's Eve house fire that had been smoldering for hours before anyone noticed.

The body of Adeline Greene, 6450 Lake Underhill Road, was found in the hallway after firefighters put out the blaze, according to Lt. Larry Zwieg of the Orlando Police Department.

It appears a candle started the fire, according to Orlando Assistant Fire Chief Kathy Miller.

Brian Ballard and Vickie Plunkett were sitting in their Lake Underhill Road home about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, watching television and waiting for a taxi to take them out to welcome in the new year when they heard a commotion outside.

"I heard this banging," Ballard, 31, said. "I thought it was some firecrackers but then I looked out the window and saw the smoke and heard people yelling fire.

"At first, I thought my house was on fire."

Ballard and Plunkett rushed outside and tried to help the strangers fight a fire that had nearly engulfed their neighbors' house.

Plunkett said she rushed back in her house to call 911, and the fire department was there within minutes.

Ballard and the passers-by tried using the garden hose to douse the blaze, while another person used a fire extinguisher.

"I guess he had it in his car," Ballard said. "It was one of those little hand-held fire extinguishers."

Ballard said he assumed his neighbors weren't home because their motor home wasn't there. After firefighters arrived, Ballard and Plunkett left to celebrate the holiday.

"We went out," he said Wednesday. "There was no one here when we got back so I assumed it was all over with. I didn't know she was in the house until this morning."

Miller said it appeared the fire might have been smoldering for up to three hours before it was reported.

"We think probably the rain and humidity and everything kept the smoke down and allowed the fire to burn for awhile before it was discovered," she said. "They found her about five feet inside the doorway."

Miller said because the woman was trapped for so long in the burning house, it would take a medical examiner to determine the cause of death.

Adeline Greene's husband, Leonard Greene, was not at home at the time of the blaze.

Ballard said the Greenes have been living in the house for nearly 40 years.

"He was here before the expressway was built," Ballard said, pointing to State Road 408, which passes in front of their neighborhood.

"Lenny was always over here," he said. "I didn't see his wife except maybe one or two times and I've been living here for more than a year. I think she had trouble getting around."

Leonard Greene and three of the couple's five grown sons were at the house Wednesday afternoon, quietly began examining the debris. They did not want to comment.

Jim Buynak can be reached at jbuynak@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5917.