When Debbie Poist was awakened early Thursday morning by screaming and looked out the window of her Hanover home to see emergency vehicles on the street, her thoughts went to her neighbor, Barbara Pressel.
Poist said she thought Pressel, who had heath problems, had fallen and had called for help.
"I said some prayers for her," Poist said, adding she planned to call a hospital the next day to find Pressel and offer any help she could provide.
It wasn't until daybreak that Poist found out what had happened, that Pressel's home caught fire.
After firefighters rescued Pressel from the burning house, she was flown to Allentown's Lehigh Valley Hospital where she later died. She was 79.
"It never dawned on me that it was a fire," Poist said. "I didn't think anything of it at the time."
Fire: Hanover and Penn Township fire crews were called to Pressel's home at 131 DeGuy Ave. at 2:50 a.m. and discovered she was trapped inside, according to Hanover Fire Chief Jan Cromer.
Firefighters rescued her from the home, but by that time she was suffering from smoke inhalation and first- and second-degree burns, the chief said in a news release.
Pressel was taken to Hanover Hospital before she was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where she succumbed to burns and smoke inhalation at 9:46 a.m., according to the Lehigh County Coroner's Office.
Her death has been ruled accidental, First Deputy Coroner Eric Minnich said.
No autopsy is planned, Chief Deputy Coroner Paul Hoffman said.
Heavy smoke: At the time of the rescue, there were heavy smoke and fire in a front bedroom, according to Cromer.
Crews extinguished the fire within 10 minutes, he said.
Poist, who's lived in her home for 40 years, said Pressel and her husband moved into their home about 55 years ago.
"Her husband died four or five years ago," Poist said. "They were very nice and quiet."
She added Pressel suffered from health issues and Visiting Angels made frequent stops at the house. Poist said she also helped the elderly Pressel by picking up things at the grocery store for her.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, but it is not suspicious, according to Cromer, who said Hanover fire officials, Hanover Police and a state police fire marshal investigated.
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.