By Joe Beck
TOMS BROOK -- An early morning fire at a house in Toms Brook took the life of two people inside, fire and rescue officials said Thursday.
Fire Marshal David Ferguson of the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue said the fire at 55 Jessica Place destroyed part of the house and left the remaining structure unstable.
Firefighters were called out at 5:25 a.m. and were still on scene pouring water on smoldering debris as of 11 a.m. Fire officials said the fire was brought under control at 6:33 a.m. Fire units left the scene by 5 p.m. while investigators remained on the scene.
Ferguson said authorities were still trying to piece together information about the fire victims.
John Collins, public information officer with the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue, identified the residents of the home as William Dartnell, 81, and Kikuko Dischleit, 86.
Fire officials could not confirm as of 6 p.m. whether Dartnell and Dischleit were those who perished in the fire. Collins said in a news release that the state medical examiner was working to identify the victims.
Collins said firefighters found both victims dead in the house.
Ferguson said all signs pointed to the fire being an accident, although the cause remained undetermined.
"When I arrived here, the structure was still on fire, and they were still in a defensive operation extinguishing the fire," Ferguson said of firefighters.
"It's a slow moving process as we move through the structure," Ferguson said of the investigation.
Firefighters from Edinburg, Strasburg, Woodstock, and Toms Brook, and rescue squads from Strasburg and Shenandoah County participated in bringing the fire under control.
Tamara Lovett, a next door neighbor, said she had known Dartnell and Dischleit for many years. She said Dischleit maintained an attractive garden that appeared to have been inspired by her Japanese homeland.
"She always smiled at people," Lovett said of Dischleit. "She was a kind lady."
"This is a tragic event for the entire community," Collins said in a written statement. "Our biggest goal is to prevent such tragedies."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org