Deadly fire blamed on careless smoking

June 24th, 2015 8:52 am

First Posted: 8/30/2013

WILKES-BARRE — A fire that claimed the life of a 90-year-old woman who lived alone was ruled an accident, city fire officials said Friday.

Firefighters found the body of Elizabeth Kovach on the second floor of her house at 77 Kent Lane minutes after responding just before 7 p.m. Thursday.

Kovach, or “Betty” as she was known in the neighborhood, died from smoke inhalation, according to the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office. No autopsy is scheduled.

An investigation by a state police deputy fire marshal ruled the fire as accidental and determined it was caused by careless smoking.

Firefighters responded to the two-story, wood-clad home at about 6:45 p.m. and found flames and heavy smoke coming from the structure.

Dennis Palmer and his wife Dorothy lived next door to Kovach for 10 years. Dorothy Palmer was stepping outside when she heard a bang next door and “saw flames shooting out of the second-floor window,” she said. She alerted her husband and ran down the street to try to contact a neighbor who had been somewhat a caretaker to Kovach.

There were no other reported injuries. Firefighters prevented flames from spreading to two other houses.

Liza Prokop, city spokeswoman, said the homeowner insurance carrier of the property will be responsible to determine if the house needs to be demolished.