Paraplegic man killed in East Austin house fire on Sunday

A woman is fighting for her life after being badly burned in an East Austin fire Sunday afternoon on Ulit Avenue.

Her paraplegic son was killed in the fire.

The Austin Fire Department got the call a little before 1:00 Sunday.
When they pulled up minutes later, a badly-burned woman in the front yard told them someone was still inside.

"Crews tried what we call a 'blitz attack' where they dump a huge amount of water very quickly trying to knock down the fire to go in and effect a rescue," said Division Chief Palmer Buck with Austin Fire Department.

Buck says they managed to do that.  But after looking inside the burning house, the incident commander had to make a tough call.

"That there was no way there was anybody inside the house was going to survive.  The fire was then fought defensively from the outside," Buck said.

Evada Jackson's brother lives right next door.  She says the man who was killed is named J.T. Gumm.  He's about 35-years-old and become paraplegic after diving into a river as a teenager.

She says his mother Deedee took care of him.

"They were real nice people, real nice neighbors.  J.T. used to come over a lot in his wheelchair, wheel on up here.  He was eager to meet my mom before she passed," Jackson said.

Sunday afternoon, she got a phone call that her friend's home was burning.

"Deedee was in the yard and she had got burned and they think J.T.'s in the house and they can't get him out because the fire is still going," she said.

J.T.'s body was pulled from the home later that afternoon.  Buck says any questions about why the young man was unable to escape the fire are all a part of the investigation.

AFD says the mother was flown to the San Antonio Military Medical Center to be treated for her burns.

"The fire investigators feel like that it's going to take a while to determine the cause.  They're going to try to talk to some people that lived at the home," Buck said.

"Yeah I heard she was cooking something for them and something blew in her face," Jackson said.

Jackson says she had trouble sleeping.  She can't seem to get what happened out of her mind.

"It's going to be quiet for a while.  Won't get to see him go up and down the road in his wheelchair," she said.

"Our thoughts are with the family...the lady who is still battling for her life.  She continues to be in critical condition and our thoughts and prayers are with her as well," Buck said.

Damage to the inside and out is estimated at $160,000.

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