Fire destroyed a man’s mobile home in a Star Valley RV park early Saturday morning and flames nearly took a neighbor’s unit as well.
Hellsgate firefighters kept the blaze from spreading into an elderly woman’s trailer next door, but could not save Bill Bumbalow’s home or shed.
Both homeowners survived the incident, but hours later; firefighters found the woman, Pat McKay, dead in her trailer. The cause of death is unknown, but McKay had extensive health issues and the stress of the incident may have proved too much, said Fire Chief Gary Hatch.
Bumbalow, whose trailer was a total loss, was treated for smoke inhalation at Payson Regional Medical Center and later released.
The light smell of soot still hung in the air Monday morning at site 45 in the Lamplighter RV Park off Highway 260. Hundreds of gold and orange fallen leaves had covered the twisted metal and black ash — all that remained of the man’s trailer.
Next door, McKay’s blue vehicle remained parked out front. A piece of plywood boarded up a window that had broken when the awning next door collapsed.
Hatch said while firefighters had only spent a few hours with McKay, helping fix her unit back up so she could stay in it, they had grown attached to her.
News of her death hit them hard.
“It was a shock to us,” Hatch said.
They found no evidence of carbon dioxide lingering in McKay’s unit and firefighters replaced the broken window in her trailer before letting her return home. While some of the plastic on the side of her unit had melted from the heat, it was inhabitable, Hatch said.
The Red Cross put McKay up in a hotel one night and while they had offered two more nights, McKay opted to go home, Hatch said.
While she didn’t look well when he dropped her off at home, Hatch said he didn’t know if that is how she normally appeared. She insisted she was fine.
When she didn’t answer her door the next day, firefighters responded — only to find her lying dead in bed.
Fire investigators are still looking through the rubble of the Bumbalow’s RV to determine the cause of the fire.
They know the man was a smoker and on oxygen. Several dented oxygen bottles lay among the leaf-littered debris, their tops blown off from the heat.
Bumbalow later told firefighters he had turned on a space heater that night and suspected it could have caused the blaze.
By the time firefighters arrived about 1 a.m. Saturday, flames had engulfed the unit and threatened to spread into several towering trees.
Both McKay and Bumbalow, stood outside, while one neighbor used a garden hose to stop the flames from spreading to McKay’s home.
Firefighters knocked the blaze down, saving several nearby units and trees.