Investigators believe careless smoking led to the fire that killed a Grand Island woman in her Baseline Road apartment Saturday night.
The fast-moving fire was fueled by oxygen tanks in the dwelling that contributed to the intensity of the blaze, which made the situation more difficult for firefighters, a Grand Island Fire Department spokesman said today.
Ten- to 12-foot flames shot from the building when firefighters first arrived on the scene, said Ray Pauley, public information office for the department.
Officials have yet to release the victim’s name.
The fire broke out shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday.
Grand Island Fire Chief Matt Osinski said the fire originated in the victim’s basement apartment of the Grand Court Apartments, 2462 Baseline Road, just north of Grand Island Boulevard.
Town police, who were the first to arrive at the scene, tried to access the apartment but were beaten back by heat and smoke, Osinski said.
Grand Island firefighters removed the victim from the unit but she had died of her injuries, the chief said.
James White and Edin Ogric, roommates in the second-floor apartment located above the victim’s unit, where the fire broke out, said they heard the woman scream, “Help – I’m on fire!” and attempted to go to her aid. However, they were unable to break through the steel-reinforced door, they said.
“We tried kicking in her door – breaking down her door,” said White, who added that the two were forced to flee outdoors for their own safety.
Firefighters from several companies battled the blaze in the three-floor apartment complex. The fire was knocked down quickly.
Windows of the unit where the fire originated were burned out and soot from the flames blackened the exterior of the building. The cause remains under investigation and a damage estimate was unavailable. Erie County sheriff’s investigators responded to the scene.
Eight other residents of the six-unit apartment building were displaced by smoke and water damage and the Red Cross was summoned to assist.
In addition to Grand Island, fire companies on the scene included Sheridan Park, City of Tonawanda and Brighton. Two Twin City ambulances were sent to the site and Baseline Road was blocked off to traffic.