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Fire victim died of smoke inhalation
Updated on: 01.29.13
The woman found dead inside a burned Nashville home Monday morning succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Chief Deputy Coroner Earl Piper released the cause of death for 60-year-old Cheryl D. Burris Tuesday afternoon after an autopsy conducted in Seymour. He did not know the exact time of her death, but said Burris had likely died by the time a school bus driver called 911 after seeing smoke pouring from the back of her home in downtown Nashville.

Piper noted that smoke inhalation can kill a person in a matter of minutes.

Brown County (Nashville) firefighters responded to 148 E. Washington St. after Brown County Schools bus driver Tom Cook smelled burnt plastic in the air while prepping his bus in the nearby parking lot at about 6 a.m.

Cook traced the odor to Burris’ home and called 911. When he walked to the front of the house, he discovered flames leaping from inside the single-story structure.

Cook began notifying neighbors at about the time Nashville Chief Deputy Ben Seastrom arrived on scene. The two of them began banging on the walls of Burris’ home, trying to wake anyone inside.

Cook said he navigated thick smoke billowing from the windows to get to the back door. The door was locked, and the handle was hot to the touch. He and Seastrom then backed away from the burning house, he said.

Brown County (Nashville) Volunteer Fire Chief Dallas “Dak” Kelp said firefighters had the fire extinguished in about 35 minutes. They had tried to get in the house after learning that someone may be inside, but a collapsing ceiling and intense flames forced them to retreat.

Fire destroyed a major portion of the home. Burris was found inside a bedroom at the back of the house.

Her neighbor, Wanda Reding, keeps watching Burris’ front porch, waiting for her to emerge for a friendly chat before heading off to work at the Brown County Inn. The sudden death of her friend has not sunk in.

“She was a real sweetheart,” Reding said. “She was one of those type of friends you knew was there if you needed her.”

They shared books, exchanged Christmas cards and watched each other’s cats when out of town.

Reding also complimented firefighters for protecting her home, about 10 feet away.

“God bless the firemen. They did a wonderful job,” she said. “They were miraculous. To me, they’re like angels.”

Reding thanked Cook’s quick thinking to alert neighbors. He accepted but downplayed his role.

“You see a fire, you call 911, and you knock on people’s doors. There’s nothing extraordinary about that,” Cook said. “Anybody else would have done the same thing. The next person in the bus lot would have done the same thing.”

An official cause of the fire has not been released by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Division of Fire and Building Safety, which conducts fatal fire investigations throughout the state.

Bond-Mitchell Funeral Home is handling Burris’ funeral arrangements.

A memorial service is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Brown County Inn.

Read her obituary by clicking here.

See Full List »

William Emmett Fisher, 73, Elizabethtown
  Father of William “Mark” (Marissa) Fisher of Nashville

Margaret (Stanley) Whitaker, 80, Morgantown
  Wife of Rawlins Whitaker of Morgantown

Ival 'Max' Skinner, 85, White Springs, Florida,
  Brown County native

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