By Drew Simon, Andy Sedlak and Sharahn D. Boykin
The Dayton Daily News
BEAVERCREEK, Ohio — A Beaver-creek house fire early Sunday morning left two people dead, and fire investigators said functioning smoke detectors may have saved their lives.
Fire engulfed the house, located at 2575 Wendover Drive, around 4 a.m., said Beaver-creek Battalion Chief Greg Connors. Neighbor Ben Clonch said he called 911 after he spotted flames shooting from the home across the street from his own.
"The whole front of the house was on fire and the bushes were on fire," Clonch said. "You've got to do the right thing in a situation like this. You can't just sit there and not do anything."
The names of the victims, a man and a woman, were not released pending notification of family members, said Beavercreek Deputy Fire Chief Scott Dorsten.
According to neighbors and property records from the Greene County Auditor's Office, the home is owned and occupied by Jerry and Bessie Starr.
The male victim was taken to Miami Valley Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital, Connors said. Firefighters found the female victim dead inside the home.
Most of the three-bedroom single level home, listed at 1,488 square feet, was heavily damaged.
"They were caring and loving people," said neighbor Renee Roberts. "They always did special things for my kids."
Roberts has known the couple since she moved into her house in 1992.
The couple used to take her daughter to Bible school at their church, said Roberts. She would also watch their house for them while they were in Florida.
The couple spent most of the year living in Florida, according to neighbors, and it was uncommon for them to be living in their Beavercreek home this time of year.
Neighbors said the couple was friendly, yet quiet and mostly kept to themselves.
A neighbor across the street said the male victim was a big Ohio State University fan.
"He would come out, check the mail and tell me the score," said Carey Huckvale, who lives in the same house as Clonch.
Huckvale was home during the fire.
"It's devastating to stand here and watch the house burn, and there's nothing you can do about it," she said.
Connors said firefighters did not hear any working smoke detectors when they arrived at the home, and a secondary check confirmed there were no working detectors inside.
"It's a cheap investment that is so valuable to your family and yourself," he said. "When you go to sleep, that thing doesn't go to sleep. It's watching over you."
Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but Dorsten said it is possible it started outside the home. The fire is not considered suspicious. The Beavercreek department's Fire Prevention Bureau and the state fire marshal are investigating.
The fire accounted for about $120,000 in property damage, Dorsten said.
Standing outside of his home Sunday morning, Clonch said he wished he could have done more to save his neighbors.
"I would like, if I could go back, to run up to that side of the house and maybe try to yell and wake them up," he said. "The fire was really large at that point so doing that would have been endangering myself."
Connors said Clonch made the right decision.
"Trying to make a rescue without the gear is not in the best interest," Connors said.
Copyright 2012 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.