Teen dies Thursday after saving sister from fire
HOT SPRINGS — A Mountain Pine High School student died late Thursday night after saving her 12-yearold sister from a fire destroying their home, authorities said Friday.
Tiffany Zielinski, 18, was pronounced dead at the scene by Garland County Coroner Stuart Smedley, according to a Garland County Sheriff ’s Office report released Friday.
Piney Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Scott Miser Jr. said the department received a call at 10:02 p.m. Thursday about a fire about 15 miles northwest of Hot Springs, and firefighters had the blaze under control within about 30 minutes of arriving on the scene.
The residence was a mobile home with additions built on the front and back, and firefighters believe the origin of the fire was in the area of the front addition, Miser said.
“That’s what we’re leaning toward,” he said, noting firefighters still had “no idea” Friday what caused the fire, which remains under investigation. The home was a loss, Miser said.
A family friend — Robert See, 49, who lives in a camper on the property — told deputies he had been at the home earlier in the evening watching the 12-year-old sister until Zielinski arrived. He said Zielinski came home and he left, walking down the hill to his camper.
He said he woke about an hour later to the sound of Zielinski screaming and then saw her run into the burning house. He said the 12-year-old, who hadn’t been identified Friday, made it out but Zielinski was still in the house.
Miser said Zielinski was apparently outside at one point and went back into the house to save the 12-year-old and was able to get her out, but Zielinski succumbed to the smoke before she could escape.
“We don’t know if she got her out through a window or a door, and we’re not sure why she was still inside,” he said.
Zielinski’s body was found in a back bedroom, which Miser said was the farthest point from where the fire started.
“I don’t know if she was trying to get something out of the house,” he said. “We don’t know what her goal was.”
Miser said firefighters found a small deceased animal that appeared to be a dog chained to the outside of the front porch.
The 12-year-old was taken by LifeNet to CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs. Miser hadn’t heard an update Friday, but he said he felt she was “probably in good shape.”
“She didn’t have any serious injuries or burns,” he said. “She just had some smoke inhalation, but she was walking and talking that night.”
Miser said the girl was taken to the hospital primarily to be evaluated.