Neighbors call Wartburg woman who died in fire hero

Ida Aytes, 65

WARTBURG (WATE) – After Morgan County Sheriff’s Office found an empty fire extinguisher in the apartment of a woman who died in a fire, neighbors are calling her a hero.

Sheriff Greytag said Ida Aytes, 65, was likely trying to fight the fire at Clinch River Apartments, located at 940 Main Street in Wartburg. Aytes as pulled from her apartment early Monday morning by neighbors and first responders and rushed to Roane Medical Center where she was later pronounced dead.

GALLERY: Clinch River Apartment Fire
GALLERY: Clinch River Apartment Fire

“She was trained to put the fire out. She contained the fire to her unit and didn’t let it spread. In my book, I think that was her last act of kindness,” said Aytes’ neighbor, Arthur Craft.

Craft helped pull Aytes out of her apartment during the fire. “She was a friend, you know, and when you have to pick up somebody that you’re going to try to save and you can’t, it weighs deep on your psyche,” he said.

Shirley Thomas said it was terrible to get the call about her sister. “I held out hope that she’d be okay, but in my heart I knew she wasn’t,” said Thomas.

Investigators said they are not sure what caused the fire. Investigators said the apartment had smoke damage, but the fire was contained to the foot of Aytes’ mattress. They did find an oxygen concentrator in the bathroom leading to the foot of the bed and two tripped electrical breakers.

Thomas said Aytes had health problems and used an oxygen machine, but it wasn’t on during the fire. “It’s just stressful not knowing why she had to die,” she said. Aytes also had a small dog that didn’t make it out of the fire.

Managers at Clinch River Apartments couldn’t be reached for comment. The fire is still under investigation according to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

Fire investigators said an autopsy report is expected in the next few days.

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