Woman dies in Bristol house fire

BRISTOL – Family members of a 76-year-old woman killed in a Wednesday morning blaze at her home on Housel Craft Road said the tragedy is reminiscent of a local saw mill fire that claimed the life of her husband about 20 years ago.

Firefighters found the woman’s body in the back of the house around 8:30 a.m., about an hour and a half after they were called to the home.

Family members at the scene identified her as Shirley Conley. Fire officials did not officially release her name on Wednesday.

Bristol fire Chief Tom Dempsey said the home was fully engulfed when crews arrived.

He said the woman’s body was found near the back door. It appeared that she had been trying to get out of the house when she was overcome by smoke and flames.

“I don’t want to speculate, but I would assume that’s what she was trying to do,” he said.

Conley’s sister-in-law, Kathryn Hites, also of Bristol, said she learned about the fire when a 911 dispatcher called her Wednesday morning to ask if she had a relative at 1138 Housel Craft Road. Hites, along with her daughter-in-law, Rhonda Hites, met fire officials at the scene.

The family said Conley was legally blind in one eye and partially blind in the other.

“It’s very sad. Her husband died because of a fire and now this,” Kathryn Hites said.

She said the couple had no children and that Conley lived alone.

The cause is under investigation.

Family members said Conley did not have heat in the house because the furnace was not working and that she had been using space heaters to keep warm. Dempsey said it appeared she was using two space heaters, but said he did not want to speculate about what caused the fire.

The State Fire Marshal’s office, along with county investigators, were at the scene. The Trumbull County Coroner’s Office is investigating the exact cause of death.

Several surrounding fire departments assisted.

Kathryn Hites said she had planned to take Conley to an appointment on Wednesday.

“It’s just hard. We were close. We did a lot together. It’s just very hard,” she said.