Fire claims life of area woman

Kathy Ciotola
SUN STAFF WRITER
ciotolk@gvillesun.com


A woman who collected wind chimes and often made flower arrangements for her neighbors died Tuesday morning after her southwest Gainesville apartment caught fire.

Eva Macready, 59, died at Shands at the University of Florida after firefighters found her in respiratory distress lying next to her bed at the Lyons apartments, 1805 SW 40th Terrace Apt. A, said Alachua County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Troiano.

"I was visiting a neighbor and when I came back, there was thick smoke in my apartment," said one neighbor who didn't want to be identified, citing privacy concerns.

The woman thought there was an electrical problem, but when she couldn't find the source, she went outside to look.

When she saw the melted blinds at Macready's front window, she banged on the door. Nobody answered, so the neighbor called 911.

Just after 4 a.m., firefighters with Alachua County Fire Rescue found the apartment full of smoke. They performed CPR on Macready, but she later died.

"She was a sweet lady," said Elizabeth Butler, Macready's neighbor. "She was the oldest person in the building, but she got along with everyone."

Fire investigators hadn't determined the fire's cause by Tuesday night, but it appeared to have started in the bedroom, Troiano said.

Macready had health problems including emphysema, officials said. Neighbors said she was on oxygen.

"She was apparently sickly; she probably didn't have much of a chance," said Alachua County Fire Marshal Mike Kelley. Macready had a smoke detector, he added.

Fire deaths are rare, said Michael Heeder, Gainesville Fire Rescue spokesman. Tuesday's death was the second fire death this year in all of Alachua County.

People with health problems, as well as children, are especially at risk during fires.

"It takes very little smoke to be overcome, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions," Heeder said. "It doesn't take much for a fire to cause fatalities."

Anyone with medical problems should take extra care to keep combustibles such as trash or clothes from piling up in their house, Heeder said. Fires can quickly spread through those items.

For more information on fire safety tips, log onto ACFR's Web site at: www.firerescue. alachua.fl.us/ or GFR's Web site at: www.gfr.org.

Kathy Ciotola can be reached at (352) 338-3109 or ciotolk@gvillesun.com.