Chief: 'clutter' delayed rescue of retired nurse who died following house fire
ROSSVILLE, WALKER COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) -- Rossville's Patty Rose Rector would become a godmother when her pastor chose to adopt an orphan from China several years ago.
But the little girl he and his wife named Kimmy, wouldn't be the first 'Nurse Patty' would call her own.
"It was such a part of her to see someone in need and want to reach out," Pastor Mike Lowery.
"The Scripture says a woman who has no children of her own, winds up having many children of the heart, and a lot of us felt we were children of Patty's heart."
Rector had been a part of Newnan Springs United Methodist Church long before Lowery took the pulpit, or Carolyne Bobo became its secretary.
"She was a retired R.N., so she was our caregiver," Bob says. "The church is just shocked about her death."
Rector, 73, died at Hutcheson Medical Center Tuesday afternoon, after fire broke out in her home at 41 Green Lakes Road, shortly after 11AM.
"We had smoke and fire coming out of the side of the house and on the patio," says Bruce Ballew, Chief of Fort Oglethorpe's Fire & Rescue.
Three fire departments would answer the mutual aid call. Three engines, a ladder truck, and 20 firefighters would need more than four hours before they were sure the hot spots were out.
"I hate to use the word 'hoarder,'" Chief Ballew says. "But we had a lot of material that was in the house that we had to get around. Just stuff everywhere! There were little paths between so you could get from one room to another."
Initially, firefighters were unaware Rector was still inside. Emergency crews revived her twice before she arrived at the hospital.
Georgia's Fire Marshal and the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department are investigating.
"They knew what the origin was a last report I heard from them," Chief Ballew says. "It was not suspicious in nature."
"She had a heart for her church," Bobo says. "She was just a splendid lady."
A 'No Trespassing' sign and investigator's tape ring the chain-link gate in front of Rector's house; her yard, a treasure trove of wildflowers and herbs.
"She was a collector," neighbor Bruce Griffith tells Eyewitness News. "She kept things as a way to hang on to her memories."
Other neighbors and church members say that's a part of Patty Rector they never saw.
Chief Ballew calls it tragic.
"If somebody you know really has to keep that much stuff, try to talk them into renting a storage bin," he says. "It's not only a life hazard for health, depending on what' stuff they're storing; it doesn't need to be in the home."
Rector was devoted to a sister, and to their 95-year-old mother, both of whom live in East Ridge, Pastor Lowery says.
"Our prayers go out to them," he says. "I personally, have lost a second mother."