House fire claims Knox woman

KNOX — Inspectors had to call in heavy equipment before they could even begin to figure out what caused a house fire which claimed the life of a Knox woman Sunday night.
Coroner Kris Rannells confirmed the victim was 67-year-old Diana L. Jedynak, who lived at the house. She was transported from the scene to Starke Memorial Hospital by EMS, and pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Washington Township Fire Department was dispatched to the house fire at 7315 E. 100 N. late Sunday night. “While responding to the fire they were advised that a female was trapped on an outside deck and was having severe difficulty breathing,” Rannells said in a press release.
Firefighters and officers from the Starke County Sheriff’s Department attempted to rescue the woman, but she did not survive.
Rannells explained the deck was a porch-like structure on the upper level of the house, which was two stories high in the rear. The only access was through the house.
Although an investigation continues, Rannells said, “It appears Diana died from injuries related to the fire.”
It was not known if anyone else lived at the house, but one official said he thought a relative of Jedynak’s lived there.
Dave Pearman, assistant chief of Washington Township Fire Department, on Monday said damage to the house was pretty extensive and the structure was destroyed. He confirmed that Washington Township Firefighter Wally Williams was one of three people believed injured.
“At first, EMS thought he was injured. He had chest pains and shortness of breath, but he was just winded from running back and forth to the EMS,” Pearman said.
A Starke County deputy and possibly an EMS employee may have suffered minor injuries, but officials couldn’t confirm that. Officials were reluctant to discuss the event because the investigation was barely underway.
More than 40 firefighters fought the blaze. When Washington Township arrived, “We called a second alarm for Knox, then a third alarm for Hamlet,” Pearman said.
As of Tuesday morning, fire personnel had no idea what caused the blaze.
State Fire Marshall Fred Sumpter told The Leader Monday that he was on the phone with heavy equipment operators and the insurance company. All parties were to meet Tuesday morning to draft a plan of action. “Right now, there is just a big hole full of debris,” he said.
NIPSCO crews were on the scene Monday, blocking 100 North. The house lies in a heavily wooded area and the remains were barely visible.
There was no estimate of the amount of the loss, but Sumpter said it would be “substantial.”
The coroner, fire marshal, Washington Township Fire Department and sheriff’s office all are investigating.  
The fire began about midnight and the house was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. Rannells said he went back to the scene from SMH about 3 a.m. and crews were still battling the flames.