Update: Fire victim identified

Update: Fire victim identified

RANTOUL — A Rantoul woman died as a result of a fire in her home Monday night in the 400 block of South Steffler Street.

Carla Phipps, 58, was pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, where she had been taken by ambulance.

Rantoul police Sgt. Marcus Beach said when police arrived at 7:31 p.m., they learned from bystanders that Phipps was possibly still inside.

When firefighters arrived, smoke and flames were seen coming through a bedroom window on the northwest side of the two-story frame home where Phipps’ bedroom is located.

They used a ladder truck to vent the roof.

Fire Chief Ken Waters said the first fire crew that entered the house was wearing air packs and brought in hoses; a second crew then entered to search for occupants.

“That’s when they found” the victim, Waters said. “They pulled her out right away. Pro (Ambulance) took possession of her, and they were gone.”

Emergency medical personnel did CPR before she was taken away.

Waters said the cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office and Rantoul Fire Department investigators remained at the scene late Monday night to investigate the cause.

The Champaign County Coroner’s Office is also investigating.

Phipps lived alone at the residence with several cats, according to family members. It is not known if the cats survived.

Waters said the fire was under control by 7:50 p.m.

Total damage to the house was estimated at $40,000.

Rantoul firefighters received mutual aid from Thomasboro, which sent five firefighters.

Waters said it was necessary to cut a hole in the west side of the house and the roof to vent the dwelling.

He said the house was full of material, which made it more difficult to fight the fire.

Phipps was the subject of a News-Gazette feature story that appeared in July 2011 about her love of collecting comic strips.

She had started the hobby in 1966 at 11 years of age, and 45 years later had collected more than 30,000 strips.

Phipps subscribed to three newspapers with comic strips.

Phipps, who was a retired waitress, had lived all but two years in the same Steffler Street house that she was raised in and shared with her three cats.

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