Smoking in bed leads to fatal fire - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Smoking in bed leads to fatal fire

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

ALBANY,  GA (WALB) – A woman died in an apartment fire around 10:30 Sunday night on Kingswood Court in Northwest Albany.

Albany Fire Department investigators say 61-year-old Ann Hanson was smoking in bed, and the resulting fire produced so much smoke that smoke inhalation was the cause of death.

In an attempt to save her life, the woman's neighbor and friend rushed inside the burning building, before the fire department even arrived.

Sadly, though, she died in her bedroom. The victim's next door neighbor Chip Milton says Hanson was loving, honest, and a true joy to be around. He told me he and his wife always helped Ms. Hanson with household chores and daily errands.

"She awoke up to the fire. Once she stood up she sucked in or breathed in carbon products. She went down and that's where our firefighters found her when they entered the room," said Albany Fire Chief James Carswell.

Hanson's neighbors spotted the fire and tried to reach her in the second floor bedroom, but could not because of heavy smoke and flames.

She is the first fire death in 2010 in Dougherty County. Firefighters pointed out those new fire safe cigarettes did not prevent this fatal blaze.

But Sunday night, there was nothing they could do to help her escape the heat, flames, and smoke that engulfed her bedroom.

When Chip Milton awoke and learned it was his friend and next door neighbor's apartment on fire

"My wife came running down and said, it's Ann," said Milton. He didn't hesitate for a second before rushing up her apartment stairs.

"I came running out and saw flames in the window. I ran upstairs trying to see what was going on and when I hit the top of the stairs it was thick smoke. I couldn't breath," said Milton.

He was only two feet away from Ann Hanson's bedroom door when he realized he couldn't breath.

"I dropped down to see if I could crawl to her bedroom but there was no way I could go any further," said Milton.

A helpless feeling knowing his dear friend was trapped inside.

"I don't want to make it seem like I'm a hero because I'm not. It was my neighbor a woman my wife and I love very dearly and it was something I think anyone would do," he said.

Firefighters say the fire started and was contained in her bedroom. When they arrived they brought her body outside in an attempt to resuscitate the 61-year-old woman, but it was too late.

"She was gone, she had been gone," said Milton.

It's a reality that just isn't sinking in. "She was a wonderful honest person. Everyone said she was solid gold. She really was," said Milton.

Milton says he's still in shock and the only way he knows how to cope is to reflect.

"We'll probably think about all the good times, and really be there for her family," he said.

Because that, he says is what neighbors and friends are for.

Chip Milton said he and his wife saw and spoke with Ms. Hanson only eight hours before she died.

He said she's lived next door to them at apartment 461 for the past two years and he, as you saw in that interview, was sincerely devastated to see her go in such a tragic way.

Investigators say it appears the cause of the fire was accidental but they are not releasing exactly how the fire started. An autopsy will be performed on her body this morning.


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