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Fatal fire claims one life in Schuylkill Haven

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: May 30 2014 05:02:03 PM CDT
Updated On: May 30 2014 09:24:51 PM CDT

Deadly fire in Schuylkill Haven

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. -

A house fire killed a 71 year-old Schuylkill County woman Friday afternoon.

Relatives believe her death was an accident caused by a tragic combination of a lit cigarette and medication.

The flames broke out around noon in the 400 block of East Main Street in Schuylkill Haven. It wasn't a big fire, but it was enough to get Art Salisbury's attention.

"I was driving down the road going to my doctors appointment saw smoke coming out as I passed by it broke through the windows the fire," he said.

Schuylkill Haven firefighters got to the home in minutes, but it was already too late.

Inside, they found Hannah Wassel dead.

Neighbors said Wassel lived in the home for decades.

Firefighters were able to contain the flames to one front room.

"Heavy fire in the front room we kept it in that room only did not spread from first room," said fire chief Michael Donatti.

The state fire marshal hasn't released an official cause yet, but the victim's son, Daniel Wassel, a Reading city firefighter, said his mother was on strong medication and likely fell asleep after lighting a cigarette.

If there's any silver lining to this tragedy, it's this: there could have been two people inside the house.

Neighbors said the victim's daughter had just left moments earlier for a doctor's appointment.