July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Wheelchair-bound woman, 78, dies in Brunswick house fire

By Steve Grazier, Loren Genson
and Keira Manion-Fischer

A wheelchair-bound elderly woman died early Wednesday when her Brunswick townhouse caught fire.

Delia Kuzda, 78, was not conscious when firefighters reached her inside the home at 4699 Doral Drive, Brunswick Assistant Fire Chief Rick Barber said.

Brunswick firefighters monitor a house fire Wednesday morning at 4699 Doral Drive. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

Barber said Kuzda was disabled. She used a wheelchair and used an oxygen tank for breathing.

Brunswick police Detective Brian Schmitt said oxygen tanks were “exploding” as police and firefighters attempted to enter the home immediately upon arrival.

“Officers tried to gain entry but had to back out due to the intensity of the fire,” he said.

The blaze began about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, reports said.

Brunswick emergency crews were dispatched to the scene by a LifeAlert alarm. Officers were able to open the garage door with a code provided by LifeAlert, but could not open the door to the house or a sliding glass door at the back of the home.

Police attempted to break a bedroom window upstairs, but weren’t able to get inside because of heavy smoke.

Barber said the fire likely started in the bedroom.

He said Kuzda was a smoker and a lit cigarette could have sparked the blaze because of the proximity of oxygen tanks she used to help her breathe.

“We believe it was accidental fire caused either by smoking in connection with oxygen or an electrical (problem),” Barber said. “We can’t rule out either one at this point.”

Brunswick firefighters will partner with the state fire marshal to determine the cause of the fire.

A relative of Kuzda declined to comment.

Kevin Whelan, who lives across the street from Kuzda’s townhouse, said Kuzda moved in about nine years ago.

Whelan said Kuzda was widowed and had two sisters and grandchildren.

He said she had been active in the neighborhood until about two or three years ago because of health problems. He said Kuzda generally remained inside her home and had visits from home health aides.

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“We just didn’t see her that much unless her health aides were taking her to a doctor’s appointment,” he said.

Sarah Benson, another neighbor, described Kuzda as “really, really nice,” and said she was upset by what happened.

Firefighters from Brunswick Hills, Medina, Liverpool and Hinckley townships, and Strongsville were dispatched to help fight the blaze. A total of 22 firefighters helped to coordinate the emergency operations.

Brunswick Fire Chief Jim Baird said damage was estimated at $250,000, including the home and Kuzda’s belongings.

Smoke and water damage were reported in an adjoining unit at 4701 Doral Drive. A total of four units were evacuated during the fire as a precaution.

All but the resident at 4701 Doral Drive had returned to their homes by Wednesday afternoon.

Baird said no firefighters were hurt battling the blaze.

Contact reporter Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or sgrazier@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.