Houston, TX - 1 Dead, 1 Injured As Fatal Houston Fire Ravages Home Of Prominent Members Of Houston’s Jewish Community
Houston, TX - A devastating fire that swept through the one story Houston home of a well known couple in the Orthodox Jewish community Friday night took the life of one resident, while sending the other to the hospital with serious injuries.
KPRC Houston reported that Eva Lou Chapman died in the blaze on the 9400 block of Greenwillow Street in southwest Houston. Her husband, Julius, remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition after suffering burns and smoke inhalation.
Firefighters arrived on scene at approximately 7:45 PM Friday night and found the house engulfed in flames and heavy smoke.
Members of the Houston Fire Department who were crawling through the smoke found Chapman on the floor near the front part of the house, according to the Houston Chronicle. Chapman was still breathing when he was pulled from the house and firefighters used a cyanokit to flush poisonous cyanide from Chapman’s system.
“When we give these kits there is a high rate of survival from smoke inhalation,” said Senior Fire Captain Ruy Luzano.
Mrs. Chapman’s badly burned body was found at the back of the home.
Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston said that Chapman was a regular at the synagogue’s morning minyan and that the couple was a pillar of the local Jewish community.
“They were models of kindness,” Rabbi Gelman told VIN News. “When they first moved here and were raising their family it wasn’t so simple to be shomer mitzvot and Shabbos. They stuck with our shul when Orthodoxy wasn’t fashionable, maintaining their lifestyle and modeling it for others. To a large measure our community is an Orthodox community because of what they did.”
The couple, both 81 years old, were heavily involved in communal projects. Julius Chapman served on the synagogue’s board and was profiled in 2014 by the Jewish Herald-Voice for his work as a shomer for the local chevra kadisha. Since there was no mikvah in town when the Chapmans moved to Houston, they built one in their home.
“Mrs. Chapman was the mikvah lady for everybody for I don’t know how many years,” said Rabbi Gelman. “That was the address of the mikvah: the Chapman house on Greenwillow.”
Rabbi Gelman remembered Mrs. Chapman for her strong commitment to her family and a Torah lifestyle.
“She was a lion,” said Rabbi Gelman. “She was very outspoken about what she thought was right and wrong and was very committed to mitzvot, especially hachnassat orchim, and to raising her family.”
Because the six Chapman children live in various locations, Mrs. Chapman would run a special “Bubby Camp.” Cousin Alysa Graves estimated that the Chapmans had approximately 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“The cousins would all get together at Bubby Camp and spend time together,” said Rabbi Gelman. “We had one couple who moved here and when they saw what she did with the grandchildren, they said it gave them something to look forward to, running their own version of Eva Lou’s Bubby Camp for their grandchildren one day.”
Details for Mrs. Chapman’s funeral have yet to be arranged.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Firefighters described conditions in the home as a “hoarder-type situation,” with items stacked higher than the house’s front door.
Firefighters had to remove the home’s front door to gain entry and had to cut their way through piles of debris in order to locate the victims.
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