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Woman dies from house fire

Cory Frolik • Apr 24, 2010 at 2:31 AM


Just before 6 p.m. Thursday, Imelda Muniz called 911 to report she had just set her furniture on fire and needed someone to respond.

Muniz, 39, of Willard, gave her address, 524 Pleasant St., and a dispatcher told her to flee the home.

She refused.

“No, I am not going to get out of the house,” Muniz said. “My name is Imelda Muniz (and) I just want to get this done and over with, so please ...”

She trailed off.

Within minutes, firefighters were at the scene and pulled Muniz from the home. Paramedics immediately began treatment for her injuries.

But she died moments later in the  ambulance, which was on its way to a waiting medical helicopter.

Huron County coroner Jeffrey Harwood said Muniz asphyxiated as a result of smoke inhalation.

Her death will likely be ruled a suicide, he said.

Harwood said she had a history of substance abuse and suicidal behavior.

But 911 tapes detailing her last moments do not make her motives entirely clear.

Although Muniz admits in the calls to setting the fire and then refuses to leave the home, she calls the dispatcher back to urge emergency responders to hurry up.

“Oh my God, for real, get here fast, I swear to God I’m burning up,” Muniz said.

She then succumbs to a harsh coughing fit.

The Willard Fire Department received the call at 5:58 p.m. and pulled up to the one-story duplex four minutes later. Firefighters found the front door engulfed in flames and smoke pouring out of the windows, fire Chief Richard Myers said.

The fire began at the entrance and spread from there.

Firefighters began extinguishing the flames and tried to get to Muniz, but couldn’t get through the front door.

They broke out the front window and climbed in, where they found the woman huddled on the floor.

She was conscious, but dazed.

“In heat and smoke like that, you’re so disoriented that you don’t know what you’re doing,” Myers said.

Muniz has a lot of family in the area, some of whom live less than a block away.

Her youngest sister, Monica Rodriguez, rushed to the scene when she heard about the fire, and she saw her being put into the ambulance on the stretcher.

She watched the ambulance drive away as her sister died.

With eyes red from sobbing, Rodriguez on Friday said she spent time with her sister only hours before the fire.

 Nothing about her seemed unusual.

“She was fine, she was happy, we were laughing and I told her that I loved her,” Rodriguez said. “And now I won’t get to see her again.”

Muniz, who was raised in Willard, lived alone in the one-story duplex.

She has two sons and used to work at MTD Products until she was laid off, family members said.

Her neighbor in the duplex was at home at the time of the fire, but he declined to comment for this story.

Myers said the state fire marshal’s office is still investigating the cause of the fire and the circumstances surrounding it.

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