Woman Dies in Mobile Home Fire

By Amy L. Edwards
The Ledger
amy.edwards@theledger.com

LAKELAND -- Despite daring rescue attempts by her son and a Polk County deputy, a 40-year-old woman died in a fire in her Southwest Lakeland home Friday afternoon, officials said.

Three forays into the fire to try to rescue Teresa West from her burning mobile home on Gay Road proved unsuccessful. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Thirteen firefighters found the structure engulfed in flames at 2:23 p.m., six minutes after the call came in at 2:17 p.m., said Cheryl Wahl, Lakeland Fire Department spokeswoman.

Polk County Sheriff's Office deputy Randy Weis arrived before the firefighters and twice entered the house to try to pull West out, Sheriff's Col. Grady Judd said.

The second time Weis entered the mobile home, Judd said, he put a wet blanket over his head and torso. He was able to briefly grab West. But she was stuck under debris, and he could not pull her out.

However, Judd said the deputy could tell that West was dead when he went in for her the second time.

Weis suffered minor burns, comparable to a sunburn, Judd said. He praised the "valor" of his deputy.

West's 22-year-old son, Andrew West, also entered the burning mobile home in a rescue attempt.

He was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with non-life- threatening injuries, Judd said.

It was not known Friday night what caused the fire.

"We are not commenting on anything (at this point)," said State Fire Marshal Lt. Mark Sauls.

The cause of the fire will not be revealed until after an autopsy determines the official cause of death, Sauls said.

A Polk County Medical Examiner said the autopsy would be performed Sunday.

Teresa West lived quietly in Polk County for most of her life, said Jody Combee, one of her sisters.

Combee said West enjoyed ceramics, painting and gardening.