SALEM – Neighbors in a Salem mobile home community are still reeling over a fire that killed an older couple in their home and wondering if more could have been done to save them.
Some neighbors tried to help but could not save 82-year-old Vernon and 73-year-old Joan Anderson. The couple died inside their double wide mobile home, discovered by firefighters after the blaze Friday evening.
“By the time we got out here it was too late. The smoke was just too thick. And all we could do was just watch it burn. It was just really hard,” said neighbor Linda Redman, who called 9-1-1.
There is little left of the home, after fire ripped through it and sent flames shooting high into the air.
Redman said she’d known the Andersons since she moved next to them in 2005. Another neighbor also tried to help before firefighters arrived, but the effort was unsuccessful.
“The heat from the fire, the windows were popping out, the smoke was coming out really bad,” said neighbor Rick Beal.
Salem Firefighters pulled a second alarm before crews even got to the fire, based on reports from 9-1-1 callers. The first engine arrived about seven-and-a-half minutes after the first call, which is two minutes slower than the department's target time for calls where lives are threatened.
The closure of a nearby fire station may have made the response time of the first engine slower, but neighbors weren’t convinced it would have made a difference.
“They got here as fast as they could and did what they could, but by then it was too late because we couldn’t even get in the back door, it was too hot,” said Redman.
Other neighbors agreed. "They lost some good people in the fire. It’s a loss you know, we’ll miss ‘em,” said Beal. “It’s hard, they were really a sweet couple,” added Redman.
Although the Medical Examiner has not officially ruled on a cause of death for the Andersons, Salem Fire Department officials said initial reports indicated that the couple succumbed to smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.