CONYNGHAM TWP. — Police say a fire that claimed the life of a Mocanaqua woman on Thursday was caused by children playing with a lighter, and the dispatch of crews to the fire is under investigation.
The fire at 76 Main St. in the Mocanaqua section of the township was reported at 10:47 a.m., and the first firefighters on scene at 10:52 a.m. confirmed entrapment in the two-story home, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper and Deputy Fire Marshal Ronald Jarocha said in a news release issued Friday.
At approximately 11:19 a.m., the victim, Michelle Ann Dzoch, 52, was located in the second-floor bathroom, Jarocha said.
The home had been occupied by Dzoch, her daughter, Holly Dzoch, 29, and two children ages 3 and 5, Jarocha said.
Following an investigation by state police fire marshals and Pennsylvania State Police at Shickshinny, it was determined that the fire started in a second-floor bedroom, and the cause was incendiary in nature. Through interviews and scene investigation, it was determined that the ignition source was a lighter being used by the juveniles in their bedroom, Jarocha said.
The victim was pronounced dead by Luzerne County Coroner William Lisman at the scene. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, and the manner of death was accidental.
Jarocha did not indicate in the news release whether the investigation was complete and whether there were any irregularities in connection with the dispatch of first responders and/or fire apparatus to the fire, as was rumored at the scene. He did not immediately return an email requesting information about that issue.
Mocanaqua Fire Chief Stephen McDaniels on Thursday had referred all comment to state police.
A county 911 supervisor on Thursday said the fire was first reported at 10:52 a.m. He said the fire chief reported from the scene at 10:58 a.m., but the supervisor declined to provide the time that the first fire truck arrived, saying drivers of fire apparatus don’t always report when arriving on-scene, and he didn’t want to provide inaccurate information.
The reporting and arrival times provided by Jarocha on Friday differ from the times the 911 supervisor provided to a reporter on Thursday.
The Mocanaqua Volunteer Fire Co. is a few hundred yards down the street from the home that burned.
Luzerne County 911 Director Fred Rosencrans said he is internally investigating his department’s handling of the Mocanaqua fire call.
He said he can’t discuss details about the investigation because personnel matters are confidential.