, Gloucester, MA

April 10, 2013

Update: Summer Street fire claims life of girl, 15

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — A fire that damaged a Summer Street home in Gloucester last night has now claimed the life of the 15-year-old girl who firefighters initially found unconscious and unresponsive in the home, according to fire officials.

The girl, now identified by the District Attorney’s Office and Fire Marshal’s office as Victoria “Tori” McCabe Schmelzer, died late this morning at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she had been taken after an initial transport from the scene to Addison Gilbert Hospital last night.

A spokesman at Mass. General Hospital had confirmed to the Times that the girl had been in the intensive care unit at MGH earlier ths morning, but at the time had declined any further comment in her condition.

The nighttime fire in the home at 36 Summer St. was accidental and likely caused by combustibles left too close to a floor lamp in an upstairs bedroom of the two-apartment house, fire officials said this morning. Fire officials also told the Times that there were smoke detectors on all three floors, but the ones on the second floor, where the fire occurred, were “inoperable,” officials said.

When firefighters arrived on scene about 8:30 p.m., they found four residents — two from the burning apartment and two from the adjacent apartment within the building — outside of the house. The girl’s 17-year-old brother, Alex, lay sprawled out on the ground, according to Deputy Steve Aiello, who was on scene at the fire.

“Her brother had attempted to get her out of the building by trying to make it to the second floor,” Aiello said this morning. “He made a valiant attempt to get to her. He had singed eyebrows and inhaled smoke.”

Alex McCabe was also transported to Addison Gilbert Hospital for smoke inhalation last night, Aiello said.

According to fire officials, the girl’s mother and brother had been on the first floor of the apartment when the fire broke out in the vacant upstairs bedroom. The 15-year-old girl was in her upstairs bedroom, the rear room in the upper floor of the apartment.

“He told us the last time he saw her she was at the doorway of her bedroom,” Aiello said.

Shortly after the fire began to burn — likely when a floor lamp burnt some paper on the floor of a vacant second floor bedroom, Aiello said — the heavy smoke traveling toward the girl’s room would have begun to disorient her, Aiello said. The smoke, along with heat and fire trapped the young girl.

A group of firefighters burst into the house, using a hose to clear the way, while others slung a ladder up to her window. The teams reached Victoria at about the same time, finding her unconscious in the bedroom, Aiello said.

They then carried her down through the house and outside, where she was “unconscious and unresponsive,” according to radio reports at the scene.

The fire did not travel to the second apartment of the home, though two residents evacuated from that apartment, Aiello said.

We will look to update this story online later today at as more information becomes available. For more coverage, look to tomorrow’s print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at