I saw this story in the Hammond Times this morning. I was just wondering if anyone had any additional information regarding this fire. I've heard rumors that area residents called 911 three times and that it took 35 minutes before the first engine responded. I also understand there are two sides to every story.

Here the story from The Times 4/14/03......

WINFIELD TOWNSHIP -- A 54-year-old homebound woman was found dead in her house after a fire broke out Sunday afternoon.

Lakes of the Four Season's Volunteer Fire Force Chief Mike Parks said the fire appeared to have been caused by careless smoking, but the official fire cause remains under investigation.

The woman was found by her husband, investigators said. The couple reportedly lived alone in the home at the corner of 101st and Benton streets in the Hidden Creek Estates subdivision. The victim reportedly had medical problems that limited her mobility.

According to State Fire Marhal Investigator Brad Sandberg and Porter County Fire Investigator James Branham, the fire appeared to have started on a sofa in the woman's great room and appeared to have been accidental in nature. Sandberg said he wouldn't release the cause of the fire until an autopsy is performed on the woman.

Investigators said the husband was out shopping and returned home around 1 p.m. Sunday to find the first floor of the home on fire. Parks said the husband and a neighbor tried to extinguish the fire with a garden hose so they could reach the woman.

By the time the Lakes of the Four Seasons Volunteer Fire Force arrived the fire was 90 percent extinguished, but the heat and smoke inside the building were the biggest obstacle to reaching the woman, Parks said. It is believed she died prior to the husband's return home because of the heavy smoke and heat inside the home, investigators explained.

"We couldn't go in without airpacks and gear," Parks said.

By the time firefighters reached the woman she was dead, investigators said.

From the exterior the house didn't appear damaged, but the great room sustained heavy fire damage and the remainder of the house sustained a great deal of smoke and heat damage, the investigators said. Parks estimated the damage to be around $150,000.

Elizabeth Eaken can be reached at eeaken@nwitimes.com or (219) 933-4183.