Updated at 9:55 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
The 39-year-old woman who suffered burns in a Vader house fire almost two weeks ago has died.
Jeannette Dunivan-Spain was put on life support last week at St. John Medical Center in Longview and two days later, she died, according to her mother Mary Dunivan.
“By Friday, she had no brain activity, they do not know what went wrong,” Dunivan said.
1973 – 2013
The mother of two boys and sister to three brothers lived in Vader all her life, although she was born in Longview. She was estranged from her husband and lived in a fifth-wheel trailer in the area, but had recently begun staying at her mother’s home west of town.
“She was May Day queen, a good ball player,” Mary Dunivan said. “She was very smart.”
The night of the fire, she stayed with an old friend, in his house on C Street that had no electricity or running water.
Firefighters called just before 1 a.m. on Aug. 15 found the one and half story structure fully engulfed in flames, which were spreading to the neighbor’s place. Dunivan-Spain told deputies who arrived that she ran outside after trying to knock down the flames from a tipped over candle.
“She said the candle caught her blanket on fire, she woke up she was on fire,” her mother said.
Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 Chief Richard Underdahl said yesterday he learned of her death but travels a lot in his work and hasn’t had a chance yet to speak with investigators
“I know the sheriff’s office is doing a follow up investigation,” he said.
Underdahl said at the time he believed she suffered second-degree burns, but he never saw her because she was at the end of the street with deputies and he was fighting the fire.
Paramedics from Lewis County Medic 1 arrived and called for Life flight, he said. A helicopter wasn’t available because of the weather so she was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to Underdahl.
Her burns were pretty bad, her mother said.
Dunivan said she’s still trying to make sense of what happened and why the Centralia hospital discharged her daughter that night instead of getting her to a burn center.
“She would be alive today, I believe, if that had happened,” she said.
Dunivan was stunned when the hospital said her daughter was being sent home, and that there was nothing more for them to do for her. “They wouldn’t even help me dress her,” she said.
“It was a couple hours after she got there,” she said. “I said, she should be given antibiotics, they said no, we gave her some cream, some pain pills and some bandages.”
Dunivan, who used to work as a certified nursing assistant, said her daughter had burns on her arms, her face and her legs. Her hair was singed, she said. The hospital said they were second-degree. “On her hand, looking at it now, it was probably third-degree,” she said.
The following day, a friend’s husband drove Dunivan-Spain to a hospital in Longview.
“We took her to St. John’s, they were flabbergasted Centralia had not done more,” Dunivan said.
They rewrapped her bandages, gave her antibiotics, pain medicine and more cream, she said.
Back at her mother’s home on Saturday, she seemed to be doing better. On Sunday she even went to the local cemetery with her husband to visit the graves of her father and little girl, her mother said.
“When I got home Monday evening, she was a mess,” Dunivan said. “She had chills, she was delirious. I don’t know what happened. She went bad pretty darn fast.”
An ambulance was called, but her daughter wanted her husband to drive her back to St. John Medical Center, and he did. And she never came home.
Dunivan-Spain began to improve on Tuesday, but by Wednesday, she’d had a heart attack, her gall bladder had an infection, her kidneys were failing and her lungs were in a bad way, her mother said.
The hospital had asked her daughter what kind of measures they should undertake, and her daughter told them do everything they could, she said.
“They put her on dialysis, they gave her everything they had to offer,” Dunivan said.
Her life support was disconnected on Friday.
“This is a tragic, tragic thing,” Dunivan said. “So many unanswered things we may never have answers for.”
Dunivan-Spain’s body was turned over to the Cowlitz County Coroner’s Office, who facilitated its transfer to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office. A detective with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is working with a fire investigator in the case.
Structure fires ending in death are infrequent in Lewis County.
Sheriff’s Office detective Sgt. Dusty Breen said the last he could recall was the fall of 2010 when a fire broke out in the home of 54-year-old Gary Ike on Nicholson Road north of Toledo.
And about four years ago, a man ended up dying from smoke inhalation when his house on Burnt Ridge Road in Onalaska burned, Breen said.
“He was in the process of moving out, there was no electricity and the house caught fire while he was sleeping,” Breen said. “He’d borrowed some candles.”
According to the sheriff’s office, their investigation is awaiting the results of an autopsy, as it’s not certain it was injuries from the fire that killed her.
A spokesperson for Providence Centralia Hospital couldn’t speak about the treatment given to Dunivan-Spain but said they are committed to the highest level of patient care.
“We take any complaint very seriously,” Chris Thomas said. “And we have a thorough investigative process that is conducted when we do receive a complaint.”
As Dunivan mourns, she’s feeling gratitude for the last couple of weeks before the fire having so much time with her daughter.
Dunivan-Spain had recently been laid off from her job at a gas station convenience store and had an appointment about drug treatment coming up, her mother said.
Yes, she had a drug problem – everyone in Vader does, her mother said. But she wasn’t a typical Vaderite, she said.
Her daughter was the kind of person who never spoke poorly of others, she said.
“She never lost her innocence, she never harmed anyone, but herself,” she said.
A memorial service for Jeannette Dunivan-Spain will be held on Saturday at 2 o’clock in the afternoon at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 122 Henriott Road, Toledo, Wash.
For background, read “Vader house fire injures one” from Thursday August 15, 2013, here