West Hartford's first fatality as a result of the devastating storm that knocked out power to most of the town occurred Tuesday evening.
Ida Schaechter, 78, of 4 High Wood Road, was the victim of a house fire which completely gutted her wood frame home. Her body was found in a second floor bedroom.
According to Fire Marshal Mike Sinsigalli, "We got the call at 9:04 p.m. Upon arrival we found a two-story frame residence fully involved."
West Hartford police were the first to arrive on the scene. According to Police Chief Jim Strillacci, they attempted to reach the second floor with a ladder but there was too much smoke.
Fire department personnel also attempted a rescue, but according to Sinsigalli, they were repeatedly driven back by smoke and the intense heat from the fire.
The fire is still under investigation, but it appears to have originated in a room with a fireplace, Sinsigalli said.
The home is located at the corner of High Wood and Mountain Roads, and fire crews had no difficuly getting to the scene, Sinsigalli said. One of the closest fire hydrants was blocked by a fallen tree, but fire department personnel hand-laid the supply line over the tree.
Harry Schaechter, 82, the husband of the victim, was able to escape on his own. He is reportedly being treated at St. Francis Hospital.
Ida Schaechter was an adjunct professor of mathematics at Hillyer College at the . Director of Media Relations, Dave Isgur, confirmed that she had been a faculty member since 1994 and was teaching two classes this semester.
"It's a tremendous shock to our community," Isgur said.
"Ida Schaechter was like family to both faculty and the students she taught. She was incredibly patient with those students to whom she taught mathematics at Hillyer," said David Goldenberg, dean of Hillyer College. "We mourn her loss and send our deepest condolences to her family."
The Schaechters were active in West Hartford's Democratic party. Harry Schaechter is currently a citizen member of the MDC's Commission on Regional Planning.
Neighbor Cary Becker, the son of State Representative Brian Becker, was at the scene of the fire Wednesday morning. Harry Schaechter assisted Becker's father extensively with his legislative campaign. "If [Ida] was anything like Harry, she was a very good person. He did everything to help my father," Becker said.