Victim identified in fatal Overland Park fire

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Overland Park police have identified the victim in a fatal condo fire near West 95th Street and Outlook Drive Tuesday afternoon.

Julie Ann Peterson, 51, of Overland Park and her dog were found dead in the front room of her condo when crews got to the scene.

Fire crews were called to an address, but located heavy smoke coming from Peterson’s unit. When they searched her condo, they found an active kitchen fire which they quickly extinguished.

Jean Ann Clemons, a next door neighbor and friend of Peterson, was the one who called 911.

“When I walked in my door, my house was full of smoke and my smoke alarm was going crazy,” Clemons said.

“She had no car, and she had fallen and gotten hurt, and she was in a lot of pain sometimes, so I took her lots of places,” Clemons said.  “I can’t imagine why her dog didn’t alarm her or something.”

But firefighters said there were no smoke alarms in Peterson’s home. 

“Smoke alarms are the cheapest and easiest form of life insurance you can have, so to have not have working smoke alarms and a fatal fire just breaks our heart,” said said Overland Park Fire Department’s Media Manager Jason Rhodes.

The National Fire Protection Association reports three out of five fire deaths are caused by fires in properties with no smoke alarms or had smoke alarms that did not work.

“This is a relatively young woman in her early 50s, you would assume that a person that age would be capable of getting themselves out of a fire,” Rhodes said. “We just don’t know the particulars, the cause of death investigation is ongoing. Whether she was overcome by smoke or whether she had a medical condition or an event all of that will be determined by that cause of death investigation but at this time we just don’t know.”

The fire continues to be under investigation.

“Reason being that even though the fire presented as a kitchen cooking fire they could not rule out the possibility of an electric issue with the stove based on what they found during the investigation,” Rhodes said.

The Overland Park Fire Department will be canvassing the neighborhood around 95th and Outlook Thursday, to make sure others have or get working smoke detectors to avoid another tragedy like the one that took Peterson’s life.

“Our folks trying to save lives and when you enter a fire unit and find an obviously unable to save a life, that’s the worst case scenario,” Rhodes said.

The Johnson County medical examiner said Peterson’s autopsy is complete but it will take 6 to 8 weeks for the report to be completed.

Preliminary findings have been turned over to the Overland Park Police Department, which has not returned our calls for that information.

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