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Published: Saturday, 2/10/2001

Disabled woman dies in house fire


The partially burned body of a 53-year-old disabled woman was found yesterday in her home at 2005 Marlow Rd. by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze at the residence, authorities said.

Karen Kipker was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

The victim's 81-year-old mother, Mary Kipker, was helped to safety by a neighbor, Theresa Westfall, who lives across the street.

Ms. Westfall said she called 911 about 4:45 p.m. when she saw smoke coming from the roof of the two-story house. She then ran to the house and helped Mary Kipker, whose movements were impeded by an oxygen unit she uses, to flee the house.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Kipker, Mary's son and Karen's brother, ran to the house from his home several houses away when neighbors told him about the fire. He said he suspected that his sister, who lived alone on the second floor, could still be inside.

“I called her. She did not respond. I ran up the stairs, but I couldn't get any farther because the heat and the smoke were so strong,” Mr. Kipker said.

Fire crews arrived moments later and found heavy gray and black smoke coming from the second floor of the two-story wood-frame structure.

“We were told someone might still be inside,” Battalion Fire Chief Gary Martin said.

Firefighters immediately entered the burning structure and began searching, the chief said. They found Karen Kipker in a second-floor bedroom next to the bed.

The bed, furniture, ceiling, and the floor in the bedroom were on fire, the chief said.

Firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control within 15 minutes.

Mr. Kipker said his mother did not know what caused the fire.

“We don't know for sure: It could be either electrical or it could be a cigarette [because Karen] was a smoker,” he said.

Chief Martin also did not know what caused the fire, which remains under investigation.

Mr. Kipker said his sister was a 1964 graduate of Central Catholic High School and was disabled when she fell into an oil well in Alaska more than 15 years ago while working for British Petroleum. She had been living with her mother at the house ever since, he said.

Dr. Cynthia Beisser, a Lucas County deputy coroner, said an autopsy is scheduled for today.

Ms. Westfall, a mother of three, said she would miss the victim, who was always very kind and used to offer her help, particularly to look after the two children when Ms. Westfall was pregnant with the third child.

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