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FATAL FIRE Danika Caldwell, 5, was killed in an early morning fire at the Palmer Gardens apartment complex.
Danika Caldwell, 5, was killed in an early morning fire at the Palmer Gardens apartment complex.
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Published: Friday, 9/5/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

5-year-old girl dies in West Toledo apartment fire


A 5-year-old girl was killed today in an early morning apartment fire in West Toledo.

Danika Caldwell was pronounced dead at the scene after being pulled from the burning apartment by Toledo firefighters. The fire at Palmer Gardens apartment complex, 2809 Wayman Palmer Dr., off of Douglas Road and just north of the University of Toledo, was reported at 1:16 a.m.

Five year-old Danika Caldwell was killed in a fire early today. Five year-old Danika Caldwell was killed in a fire early today.

Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld said when firefighters first arrived on scene, there were several people sitting on a flat, second-story overhang as the apartment burned. Firefighters got all of the people down without incident. They knew, however, that there was still one person inside the building. Because of the intense fire, firefighters could not go in without first making an attack on the fire, Lieutenant Hertzfeld said.

“The heat and the conditions prevented them from going in right away,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said. “They had to fight back the flames before they could do a search. It was very, very high heat and so it wasn’t like it was a walk in the park. It was a very high-stress incident when you have people outside screaming there’s still someone inside and people on the roof.”

Once water was on the fire, firefighters were able to go inside within only minutes; within five minutes of being inside, the Caldwell youth’s body was found on the second floor.

Lieutenant Hertzfeld said smoke alarms inside the apartment were functioning and alerted the family to the fire.

“In the confusion of the incident, contact with her [the Caldwell youth] was lost,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said.

A neighbor said on Friday morning that she went outside shortly after the fire started and could hear the little girl inside the apartment yelling, hoping to be found.

“I can’t get that voice out of my head,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.

Damage to the property was estimated at $85,000.

The cause of the fire, which started on the first floor of the apartment, has not been determined. The incident remains under investigation.

A Toledo firefighter suffered a “minor” knee injury.

The Red Cross responded to the scene and provided housing, food, clothing, bedding, and transportation costs to three families consisting of five adults and five children. Because the fire was fatal, the Red Cross will help pay for some of the funeral costs and work with disaster and mental-health volunteers to reach out to the community and family if needed, a spokesman said.

The Caldwell youth, who would have soon celebrated her sixth birthday, was a first-grade student at Old Orchard Elementary School, said Toledo Public Schools spokesman Patty Mazur. Counselors were on hand today for students and staff.

Staff, before school started today, printed pictures of the Caldwell youth and put them into plastic-sleeve pins; one was given to each student to help remember the girl. The school is planning to hold a vigil tonight at 8 p.m. at a field next to the school. In the event of inclement weather, the vigil will be held inside the school.

Principal Valerie Dreier, through Ms. Mazur, described the Caldwell youth as “a very smart student” whose laughter was “contagious.” Her smile, Ms. Dreier said, “lit up the room and everyone loved her.”

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