Fatal fire in Wilmington
WILMINGTON — A house fire Saturday morning on Springfield Road took the life of a woman who lived there, but neighbors were able to save the life of her boyfriend.
Brittany Barney, 37, was pronounced dead on scene at 11:05 a.m. The cause of death has not yet been determined, according to Essex County Coroner Frank Whitelaw. An autopsy is being scheduled for this week.
The cause of the fire has not yet been announced. A representative of Essex County Emergency Services, whose fire investigators were on scene Sunday, was not immediately available for comment.
Barney was not the only resident home when the blaze began, Whitelaw said. Her boyfriend, who has not yet been identified, was rescued from the home by neighbors.
The neighbors apparently stacked pallets outside the burning building to reach the window of the first-floor bedroom where Barney’s boyfriend was. They broke the window and pulled the man out, Whitelaw said. The man suffered minor burns to both his arms, he said.
“If not for them,” Whitelaw said of the neighbors, “we would’ve had two victims.”
Whitelaw arrived on scene at 11 a.m. Saturday. He remained on scene until 8:30 p.m. as first responders obtained a search warrant for the home.
On Sunday afternoon, the smell of soot and burnt wood lingered at the intersection of Springfield Road and state Route 86. The home’s facade was blackened, and what appeared to be a porch awning had collapsed in a pile of destroyed material at the front doorstep. Windows on both floors of the building were broken, shards of glass still in the pane, or else completely destroyed. A section of the roof was gone. A red plastic dog’s run, attached to the porch, lay singed on the front lawn.
Inside, what furniture wasn’t obliterated by the blaze was entirely blackened: A single chair sat in what appeared to be the living room, illuminated by bright sunlight streaming through holes where windows once were.
Behind the building, a cluster of children’s toys were strewn across the back lawn, seemingly untouched.
Barney came from a big family.
Her cousin Elizabeth Barney Bale, who now lives in Michigan, said though the family is large, it’s always been tight-knit.
“If somebody was hurt, we’re all there for each other,” Bale said. “Brittany was part of that.”
She loved her family unconditionally, and she always made time for them, she said.
When her sister had a baby, Brittany spent days with her helping out, Bale said. When her niece graduated high school last year, she was there to cheer her on.
“She was a great person,” Bale said. “She could be a very selfless person.
“We’re still trying to understand what happened and why this happened.”
Barney is predeceased by a sister and her mother, Bale said.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “It’s a very hard time for my family.”
Barney played hockey for the Lake Placid Rockets, her cousin said.
She helped run ADK Pizza & Pasta, Bale said. ADK Pizza & Pasta is a restaurant that opened at the intersection of Springfield Road and state Route 86 last April.
The restaurant was open for four hours Sunday night to raise money for her family.
The Enterprise will continue to follow this story as it develops.