BEATRICE - A fire in a northern Gage County town has proved fatal.

Clatonia Fire and Rescue and the Gage County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a house fire at 10:33 PM Monday, on the corner of Jefferson Street and North Oak Street in Clatonia.

There was a female occupant inside the residence, at 300 Jefferson Street…the northwest corner of the intersection. The woman was found dead, inside the home. Her name is being withheld pending positive identification and notification of next of kin.

Clatonia Fire Chief John Strunk says firefighters were on scene through the overnight. He said a male occupant was able escape the burning home.
"When we had gotten there, the house was fully engulfed. The gentleman, he was on the upstairs...he was able to escape through a window."

The female victim was found on the main level of the home. Strunk says getting the fire under control was difficult.  "We had guys pulling hoses....we had one of the fireman on the pumper shooting it with a deck gun. With the way it was laid out...and with the trees, he honestly thought he was just putting water on the rubble at the couldn't even see the structure at that time."

Mutual Aid was provided by Cortland Fire and Rescue, Wilber Fire and Rescue and Hallam Fire and Rescue.

"My hats off to those guys. They were there in a hurry. It's good that we work together. Someday, it's going to be us going to help them."

Clatonia and Crete EMS personnel were also on scene. Strunk said 25 to 30 firefighters fought the blaze. Also responding to the scene was Gage County Emergency Management.  No firefighters were injured battling the blaze. Strunk said it has been several years since a fire of this size in the community.

Harlan and Tammy Schlichting live about a block and a half away and have known the couple who lived at the home...for at least twenty years.  (Tammy) "The fire response got here real fast...(Harlan)..."We walked out and there was like four different booms and then it blew up. After that, I looked out and I could just look over here and see fire...and then the fire trucks were there fast...they were coming up here right away."

Harlan Schlichting says the explosions may have been oxygen tanks. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Nebraska Fire Marshal’s Office.