Neighbors: Woman who died in Cuyahoga Falls fire kept to herself

Alan Ashworth
Akron Beacon Journal

A Cuyahoga Falls woman died late in the evening of Oct. 9 after a fire swept through her 15th Street home.

The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as Cathleen Smith, 51, and said an autopsy to determine cause of death would be conducted Monday.

Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department firefighters were called to the scene after 11 p.m. by a neighbor, said Assistant Fire Chief Chris Martin.

Taylor Swaino, a neighbor of Smith, said Saturday that she saw the blaze and called 911, but another neighbor had already reported the fire.

“I looked outside and I saw the flames in the window,” she said. “But I think the back was worse.”

A 51-year-old Cuyahoga Falls woman died late Friday night after her 15th Street home was engulfed in flames. (Alan Ashworth/Beacon Journal)

Martin said the fire was a challenging scene. When firefighters arrived, they had trouble getting the front door open due to the condition of the home.

He said heavy flames and smoke were showing.

Martin said Smith was found dead inside the home near the front door. A pit bull was also rescued, and was unharmed.

Martin said that a paramedic who lived next to Smith called in the fire and tried to help.

"He is a paramedic ... and tried to make entry into that front door but couldn’t," Martin said. 

The fire was knocked down about 10 minutes after firefighters arrived, Martin said.

Another neighbor who saw the fire said he and his family were in the backyard when they heard sirens.

“It was ablaze; it was high,” said neighbor Jacob Mayer. “We were wondering if it would hit the tree.”

One of Smith’s two dogs died in the fire, neighbors said, but the pit bull that survived ran across the street, where Mayer and his family watched it until police took possession.

Donna Miller, another of Smith's neighbors, said she was quiet, but pleasant.

“She stayed to herself a lot,” Miller said. “One time [my son] mowed her lawn.”

After that, Smith hired someone to take care of the property, Miller said.

Miller said Smith’s parents occasionally came over to visit.

Miller said she and her partner were asleep when the fire started, but awoke to sirens and fire trucks.

"I thought, 'Where's my son?' " she said.

By Saturday afternoon, Oct. 10, the house had been boarded up. A damage estimate was not immediately available.

Martin said the cause is still being determined, but firefighters believe it started near the back of the home.

"We’re guessing the area of origin is in that back corner where the kitchen was," he said.

Susan Jackson, whose property abuts the burned residence, also said Smith was quiet and was a dog lover.

“She was very private, but very nice,” Jackson said. “It’s just awful.”

Alan Ashworth can be reached at aashworth@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.