Woman dies in house fire

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By David Giuliani

A fire at a house at Douglas Avenue and 12th Street on Saturday night left one woman dead, officials said this morning. The cause is believed to be arson.

Authorities didn’t identify the woman or say whether they have any suspects.

The Las Vegas Fire department responded to the fire around 10 p.m. Saturday at a two-story house at 1110 Douglas and almost immediately called all off-duty firefighters, Fire Chief Steve Tafoya said. The firefighters discovered a stairwell engulfed in flames; it then collapsed, Tafoya said.

The fire spread to a two-story home four feet away at 1108 Douglas, he said. The city police evacuated the entire block and blocked off traffic.

As the firefighters battled the blaze, they got word from city officers that a tenant in the house was missing, Tafoya said.

The chief sent some of his firefighters to search for the woman, but then they were told that the Highlands University police may have found her.

After the Las Vegas firefighters got out of the house, they were informed that the Highlands officers determined that the woman they found wasn’t the missing one, Tafoya said.

By that time, much of the second floor of the house was on fire. Tafoya said he decided not to have his firefighters go in again.

“It wasn’t worth losing four of my guys. If she was in there, it was too late,” he said.

With the help of the Sapello-Rociada and Gallinas volunteer fire departments, firefighters around midnight adopted a “surround and drown” strategy, positioning pumper trucks on all sides of the house.

Tafoya said he feared that six nearby buildings would catch fire if firefighters didn’t “surround and drown.”

He said the first house was a total loss, while the second one sustained some damage.

The woman was found the next morning in the house, Tafoya said.

“The second floor had collapsed on the first,” the chief said.

Tafoya said the local Red Cross arranged for lodging at a motel for those in the two houses. He said Superior Ambulance was on scene to help tired firefighters.

This was the first major fire in Las Vegas since a blaze consumed the state probation office a couple of winters ago. That office was next to Vida Encantada nursing home in the north part of town.