The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

October 21, 2013

Officials release identity of female victim lost in downtown fire

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — The City of Palestine has released the name of a female victim lost in a downtown structure fire in the early morning hours of Sept. 28, and are continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze at 119 E. Oak St.

Two victims were recovered from the scene on Saturday afternoon, with one of those being identified from dental records as Hope Leann Pyle (also known as Hope Clark), 32, of Palestine.

Services for Clark were held on Oct. 5 at a local church. She was survived by four children, siblings and other family members.

Identification of the second victim is ongoing, as they are being identified through DNA records — a process that could take at least 30 days, according to reports from the City of Palestine.

“We are saddened by the loss of life in this tragedy, but we are thankful to be making progress and hope that these efforts will bring some closure to family and friends of the victim,” Palestine interim City Manager Wendy Ellis said.

The City of Palestine and other agencies continue with their investigation regarding the reason for the early morning blaze.

At this time, no determination has been made on how or where the fire started,” a press release from the City of Palestine stated. “Much of the cleanup has been completed, and investigation efforts are continuing.”

Just after midnight on Sept. 28, Palestine Police dispatch received a report of a structure fire at 119 E. Oak St. Palestine Fire Department responded with three engines and a command vehicle.

Upon arrival at the scene, heavy fire conditions in the rear of the building and heavy smoke throughout the structure were encountered.

Within minutes of being on scene, the structure suffered the first of multiple collapses making it impossible for fire fighters to enter the building. A defensive strategy was employed to protect exposures and fire personnel on scene.

At the time of the fire, there were unconfirmed reports of the possibility of individuals being inside the building, which housed a thrift store on the bottom floor, with upper floors being renovated for use as apartments.

Once the fire was extinguished, a search mission immediately commenced, with Texas Department of Criminal Justice personnel assisting in the efforts by bringing in canine units to search the area as of noon Saturday.

Remains of the deceased were found at about 4 p.m. that day.

Earlier Saturday morning, Palestine Fire Department firefighters were putting out hot spots and brought in heavy equipment to pull down the remaining walls of the historic three-story building.

The front wall of the building collapsed at 4:30 a.m., according to reports.

The building is currently owned by Jason Dorsett. According to his mother, Cyndi Dorsett, who was at the scene of the fire, he did have insurance on the building and had finished renovations to put in lofts on one of the upper floors.

However, at the time of the fire, only the bottom floor was authorized to be used for the thrift store, as the upper floors were not ready to be occupied.

Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at