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Woman suffers burns in effort to save horse

| Monday, May 6, 2002

A 65-year-old woman was burned Sunday evening in a fire in Washington Township, but she couldn't rescue the horse she loved.

Joann Dohmen, of Echo Ridge Road, suffered burns to her face, arms and chest in an attempt to save her horse "Cindy" from her small barn. The fire killed the horse and gutted the barn that was the size of a two-car garage.

Dohmen was flown to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, but not before she told relatives how she tried to save her horse. She was apparently beat back by the flames before she could pull the horse out.

Cindy, a 20-year-old Morgan horse, had been an anniversary present from her husband, Richard, who has since died.

Fire Chief Dan Black said he didn't know how the fire started, but he doesn't think it was suspicious.

A state fire marshal from Greensburg was investigating the charred mess late yesterday.

"She's lucky she didn't die in there," said Dohmen's niece, Donna Schimizzi. "If she'd stayed in there a couple more minutes, they'd have never got her."

Dohmen apparently heard a pop and a spark and all of a sudden the barn was engulfed in flames, Schimizzi said.

"She's going to take this very hard. She loved that horse," Schimizzi said.

Both of them used to enjoy riding through the woods on their horses, over several miles of hills and dips to near the Alcoa Technical Center in Upper Burrell, Schimizzi said.

Dohmen hadn't ridden Cindy recently because of health problems, but she loved to groom the horse.

Her love of animals spills into her professional life, too: Even at 65, she works part time as a veterinary technician at Borderbrook Animal Hospital in Murrysville.

Some 40 firefighters were called to the rural, hilly street about 6 p.m. By the time they got there, the barn was engulfed in flames, but they quickly put the fire out.

Washington Township, Sardis and White Valley fire departments and Oklahoma EMS also helped at the scene.

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