East St. Louis firefighters found the woman they were searching for early Tuesday morning after putting out a fire at her house in the 8500 block of Church Lane in East St. Louis.
LaVanda Richmond, who lives next to the house that caught fire, said her husband woke her up about 5 a.m. and said flames were coming out of the side of the house where their neighbor, Shirley Farrow, lives. Richmond said the fire seemed to be located in the woman's bedroom.
"He woke me up and said, 'Ms. Shirley's house is on fire!' So I grabbed my phone and called 911, and told them to kick her door in because she lives alone," Richmond said.
Richmond said when they kicked in the door, the fire seemed to burst from the house in "a fireball," so she told her husband not to go inside.
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"We pulled our hose around to try and help. The fire department came about 20 minutes later," Richmond said just before 7 a.m. "We kept telling them, 'She lives alone, she lives alone.' And the fire was in her bedroom. Her daughter is on the way now. I'm just glad because I was sick to my stomach for awhile."
East St. Louis Fire Department Assistant Chief Derrick Burns said they received a call for the fire about 5:30 a.m. When they arrived, a neighbor told crews the woman normally does not go to work until 10 a.m. Burns said they immediately searched the house to see if the woman was home but did not find her.
"After we couldn't find anything, we attacked the fire. After it was knocked down, we did a secondary search and still couldn't find anything," Burns said.
Burns said while they were searching the rubble of the house, Farrow's daughter told them her mother had gone to work early and was not home at the time of the fire. Once they knew no one was in the house, crews stopped the search.
Burns said they are not investigating the fire as suspicious and that it appears it started due to electrical problems. He said the daughter told crews Farrow had been having problems with the outlets in her bedroom, and it appeared that's what started the fire.
Burns said the house had extensive damage. He said the the bedroom and kitchen were gutted, and the rest of the house had smoke and water damage.
Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6