Kristie Bell and her teenage daughter Monica Greene have been identified as the victims who perished in an early-morning Sunday house fire in Olean, authorities said Monday.
Bell, whose age was unavailable but described as in her 30s, and Monica, 16, were unable to escape the fast-moving blaze in their two-story home at 309 S. Second St., where three other residents managed to flee to safety. The three suffered minor injuries and were treated in Olean General Hospital, according to Fire Lt. Bob Bartholomew.
“It’s hard to escape when people get trapped in a fire that happens so quickly,” Bartholomew said.
When firefighters arrived at about 2:35 a.m., they attempted a rescue by gaining access through a rear section of the wood-frame residence. Less than a dozen feet inside, a front roof collapsed and the firefighters were directed to evacuate the fully engulfed house.
“They were going to make an initial intervention, but were ordered out due to the deteriorating conditions,” Bartholomew said. “At that point, it became a defensive strategy in battling the fire.”
The fire was not declared under control until 8 a.m. and firefighters remained on the scene until about 11:30 a.m. Sunday. An emergency demolition was also requested for what remained of the house.
Bell worked as a home health employee and her daughter was a student at Olean High School. They are the niece and grandniece of Olean Fire Chief Robert Bell, authorities said.
The cause of the fire is being probed by a team of city police and fire investigators. A damage estimate has yet to be established.
Residents in the neighboring home at 311 S. Second, a 2½-story wood-frame building, managed to escape unharmed, though that structure was extensively damaged, according to fire officials. There was also an undetermined amount of damage to the other adjacent home, a single-story, wood-frame house at 307 Second, which was unoccupied.
Fire companies from Allegany, Weston Mills and Portville assisted Olean firefighters.