Smoking in bed, in a house that was not equipped with smoke detectors, was the cause of a April 20 fire in New City that killed a 75-year-old woman who became trapped in the flames.
Clarkstown detectives investigating the fire at 7 Central Ave. said Monday the blaze has been determined to be an accident. The death of Eleanor Luciano Kasamis was the first death in a structure fire in Rockland County in 2012, and the first for the county since 2009.
Police said the 10:30 p.m. blaze started in the lower level of the two-story home just a couple blocks off Little Tor Road in southern New City. The fire quickly spread to the second floor, where the victim was in her bedroom and became trapped.
On the night of the fire, investigators suspected smoking in bed make have been at the root of the fire and the probe of the fire confirmed that as the cause. Police said the victim’s son, Lou, was downstairs in the home when the fire broke out in the lower leverl and that he attempted to put the fire out himself.
Police said there was a delay of several minutes in calling for help. Also, police confirmed the house was not equipped with smoke detectors — a factor which police and firefighters suspected on the night of the fire.
The victim’s son, police said, tried to reach his mother but could not because of the flames and he yelled to her about the fire as he escaped the home through the front door.
Clarkstown police officers, who were the first to the scene of the fire, tried to reach the trapped woman by using a ladder to get to a second-story window. However, the fire was too intense for them to get into the house.
A volunteer firefighter who lives nearby — who is also a professional, career firefighter — was the first firefighter to reach the home and tried to get into the front door of the home, but was also forced back because of the intense flames.
By the time firefighters could get into the front door of the home, the house had sustained heavy damage and the main staircase in he home had collapsed — but the damage was hidden by smoke and flames. A New City volunteer firefighter who attempted to go up the stairs fell through the wreckage and was briefly trapped in the stairs.
He was rescued by fellow firefighters and suffered minor burns on his neck and his right ear.