EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Neighbors and law enforcement are sending condolences and comfort to the family of woman killed in an Effingham County house fire.
The fire happened Friday and Mary Ellen Gaudette died Sunday in Augusta from burns and smoke inhalation.
Flowers and balloons now sit outside of this Effingham County home to memorialize Mary Ellen Gaudette. Neighbors remember her as a loving grandmother and say her death is heartbreaking.
Gary Hodges has known Gaudette and her husband Bruce for almost a decade. The couple rented this home from Hodges, and while they weren't related by blood, he says after nine years, they were family.
"It's very heartbreaking for me and my family. Very, very heartbreaking. She was a very good grandmother. Loved her grandchildren dearly," Hodges said.
Hodges was out of town when the fire happened. He says Gaudette's grandchildren spent a lot of time at the home, and when he heard about the fire, he was thankful they weren't there.
"That was one of my worst fears when we knew that she was hurt bad, burned bad, we were just praying that the grandchildren were not here, and nobody else was hurt," Hodges said.
Effingham County Deputy Paul Davis got to the fire almost immediately as it was dispatched, and was able to rescue Gaudette from her burning kitchen. As he entered the home, he says flames from the stove touched the ceiling.
He says he doesn't believe in coincidence, just being at the right place at the right time. Despite her death, he says he wouldn't do anything differently.
"I don't think I would've been able to live with myself if I hadn't at least tried," Deputy Davis said.
Now, Hodges says he's working with Gaudette's husband, who was working out of town when the home burned, to help in any way he can.
Hodges says this home was built in 1905 and both his parents and grandparents lived inside. On top of losing his neighbor in the fire, he also lost his own personal family memories.