Sister, brother die in house fire
The investigation of a house fire in Corydon that claimed the lives of two people on Saturday continued yesterday. Thelma C. Arnett, 95, and her brother, Fred O. Arnett, 83, died in the blaze on Hill Street.
“The rumor is the fire was caused by a wood stove” the couple used to heat their home, Kevin Barrow, chief of the Corydon Volunteer Fire Dept., said yesterday morning. “I’m not going to say one way or another at this time.”
A member of the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office arrived late Saturday afternoon, but Barrow said the investigation became difficult when it became dark. Another fire marshal met Barrow at the scene late yesterday morning.
Firefighters were dispatched to the blaze between 2 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Barrow said, after an elderly neighbor of the Arnetts called for help.
“We were told there were possibly two subjects in the house” at that time, Barrow said.
The first firefighter on the scene said the room where the victims were later found was fully engulfed.
“It was a very hot fire,” Barrow said. “It was not safe to have anybody go in” and attempt to rescue the Arnetts.
Thelma Arnett had been bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis for quite some time, said Jewel Brown, a member of St. Paul AME Church in Corydon. Thelma Arnett and her brother were members of St. Paul’s, which is less than a block from their home.
“She was a very devoted Christian,” Brown said of Thelma. “She continued to send her tithe (to church)” after she was unable to attend.
Brown, the church historian, couldn’t recall Fred Arnett, a retired self-employed laborer, but she said his sister “could sing good.”
Both Arnetts were Corydon natives, children of the late Samuel and Ethel Johnson Arnett. Thelma was born Jan. 12, 1908, and Fred was born Nov. 13, 1919. They are survived by a brother, Kenneth Arnett of Corydon, who lived nearby.
Harrison County Coroner Chad Cesar said the Arnetts died of smoke and thermal injuries in the fire.
Barrow said the Arnett home was “a double-wall structure” and part of it was a log cabin. Walls were placed on the outside of the log structure with siding placed over that, he said.
The residents of the house directly south of the Arnetts’ were evacuated due to its close proximity to the fire. The wind on Saturday was out of the south, which helped firefighters contain the fire to the one home.
Firefighters from the Harrison Township VFD were called to assist in battling the blaze, Barrow said, while Lanesville VFD provided water support and New Middletown VFD filled air tanks.
Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept. brought one of its fire trucks to the Harrison Township firehouse “to standby” in case there was another fire in the Corydon area, Barrow said.
Hardee’s, McDonald’s and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. provided hot coffee for the firefighters, some of whom remained on the scene until 9:30 or 10 p.m. and had to deal with cold temperatures, wind and snow that began falling soon after the fire started.
Law enforcement officers from the Corydon Police Dept. and the county sheriff’s department assisted by blocking traffic and taking pictures for evidence, Barrow said. The Rev. Richard Goodwin, a chaplain with the sheriff’s department, also helped.
Thelma and Fred Arnett were buried yesterday in Cedar Hill Cemetery after a joint funeral service at Beanblossom-Cesar Funeral Home in Corydon. Pastor Mark Horton officiated.