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UPDATED: Firefighters rescue three from burning Hilltop home, one dies

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on Feb. 27, 2009 at 8:19 am |
February 27, 2009 8:19 am


Tacoma firefighters rescued three people from a burning home on the Hilltop this morning.


One of those women later died of her injuries at Tacoma General Hospital for treatment, officials said. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the woman as Judith Abson, 43. An autopsy to determine her cause of death most likely won’t take place until Monday.


A friend took the other two people who’d been rescued to the hospital for evaluations.


Firefighters were called to the home in the 1300 block of South Eighth Street about 5:40 a.m. The caller reported a fire in the basement and said there were people trapped inside the home, Tacoma Deputy Fire Chief Jolene Davis said.


When firefighters arrived, they found smoke and flames coming from the home. They immediately rescued two people from a second floor window, bringing them down a ladder.


The occupants reported another person was stuck inside, Davis said. At that point, the flames were coming up from the basement and through the first floor.


“(The firefighters) had some difficulty knocking the fire back so they could get in and search,” Davis said.


Crews were successful and found Abson, who was stranded on the second floor. Firefighters brought her down the stairs, Davis said. She was then taken to Tacoma General by ambulance.


“The crews made a great stop and a great rescue,” she said outside the home as fans whirled just outside the front door.


A fire inspector was on the scene and trying to determine a cause. Volunteers with the American Red Cross were also at the house, providing aid to those displaced by the fire.


Thomas Martini, who rents the home, said six adults, two children and six cats were inside at the time. Wrapped in a blanket near the charred home, Martini said the smoke alarms alerted him to a problem.


He discovered the fire was in the basement but couldn’t get to it. He got his two daughters – ages 12 and 14 – out of the house.


“I got to the basement door and the flames were already two feet high,” Martini said.


He got a key and unlocked the basement’s outdoor entrance.


“The flames were too thick to get inside,” Martini said.


The fire department arrived a short time later and rescued Martini’s 20-year-old daughter and a friend from the second-story window, then Martini’s wife from inside.


“They couldn’t get down the stairs because it was too black,” Martini said.


Joey Jackson and Mike Hardin, both of whom stay frequently at the home, smelled the smoke before the alarms went off.


“We thought it had been the stove left on,” Hardin said.


They went to the basement and saw the flames.


“I tried to get to the fire extinguisher but the fire was between me and it,” Hardin said. “We tried to get some water to douse on the fire but there was too much smoke coming out of the basement.”


In an e-mail to The News Tribune, Noelle Dial described Abson this way:


For myself, I can tell you she made amazing cookies. She was generous with her time. She was always there with a shoulder to cry on, or to laugh at something funny, or to confide in…or…Yeah. She was a good friend. A good mother. An artist. She painted digital abstracts…they are beautiful work. She wanted to make a go at selling them, having prints made.


I’m going to miss her.


Another friend, Mel, wrote:


The people you meet online are real people.


Judith was a huge part of the online community of Everquest 2 and a dear friend to a great many people. As I write this, I’m also currently in a chat room with about thirty other people from the game, all mourning her loss and sharing fond memories. Some of them knew her outside of the game. Others only knew her from talking to her online.

Either way, she touched so many lives; an entire community made up of people from all over the world.


I was lucky enough to meet her at a “real life” gathering in Ohio last year. What can I say about her? She was an amazing woman with a big heart and an infectious laugh. She gave marvelous hugs. She was always there to offer a shoulder and a kind word (or a kick in the butt) to anyone who needed it. To say that her loss has left a giant hole in our community and she will be sorely missed would be an understatement.


Alex wrote this:



I heard of the loss from the RM community. A community that stretches from one part of the world to another. Judith was a big part of that community. As news of the loss of such a talented, wonderful soul reached us we were floored.



Judith was an amazing woman that would give you the shirt off her back if you asked. She was the type that would sit up with you for hours even though she was dead tired to help you with a problem whether small or big.



You hear once an awhile about those people that can reach through differences and just make lives better. She was one of them. I cant believe she is gone, and I know that our community will never forget her, her heart, her mind or the character of that woman.



My heart goes out to her husband, her two daughters, and her friends.


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