Despite heroic efforts, Kansas City neighbors say fire claimed woman’s life who was a ‘pillar of community’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- She's being described as being a pillar of her community.

People living in the South Kansas City neighborhood near 116th Street at McKinley Avenue watched in panic on Saturday night, as two men attempted to assist first responders in saving a senior couple's lives as their home burned.

Residents are calling Wanda Bucklinger a beloved neighbor. Selfless neighbors attempted to rescue Bucklinger, including Joel Voss, who says he's homeless, but performs odd jobs for families in the district near Longview Road. One neighbor says she'd lived in that area for 14 years, and loves Wanda and her husband, Frank Bucklinger, very much.

"Frank's house is on fire, so I just took off running down here," Voss said on Monday.

Voss says firefighters had just broken out the home's sliding glass door, when he ran to the house's back side, and used a tarp to help pull Wanda from the burning house.

"I couldn't feel her pulse. It was like, boom, boom. It was really slow. (The EMT) felt the jugular, and at first, he thought she was gone," Voss said.

Voss told FOX 4 News he saw paramedics revive Wanda for a short time. Neighbors confirm she later died at a hospital.

"I knew them. He's a real nice guy. His wife was too," Voss tearfully said.

Neighbors describe the Bucklingers as a nice couple. One homeowner says Wanda Bucklinger uses oxygen to treat breathing difficulties, and she'd recently done a hospital stay after breaking a hip.

"I know where she is. She's in heaven," Julie Reed lives across the street. She describes Wanda Bucklinger as a faithfully religious woman, and one whose grace she'll miss.

"I'm going to miss the presence, knowing that if I ever wanted to go talk, or when I take a walk, or any information, or Merry Christmas. Christmas cards," Reed said.

"They're good people. It's sad they'll be missed. They're pillars to their community," Charles Barnett, another neighbor said.

Neighbors also say Frank Bucklinger is staying with family outside the Kansas City area for the time being. Another neighbor who tried to help is a Kansas City police officer who lives nearby, and he's been asking reporters not to share his name. He commented that he's an officer, and he's called to serve others.