A 63-year-old woman perished in the blaze that consumed her Auburndale home.
The victim, Joanne Brown, was found dead at the scene on Sunday, April 15. Her cousin, who Brown lived with, 59-year-old John Rebecchi, escaped.
Neighbor Sandra Villafane was one of the first people to see the fire. Up late on the computer, Villafane said she heard loud crackling noises and screams.
“Joanne! Joanne! [Rebecchi] was screaming her name,” said Villafane.
Villafane, who lives two houses over with her boyfriend, said that Rebecchi refused to leave his property. He stood by the wrought iron fence that surrounds his home and watched the fire in shock. After some coaxing, she said, she was able to get him to sit down and drink a glass of water.
At 4:39 a.m., firefighters responded to the call at the two-story private dwelling located at 45-08 189th Street. According to the FDNY, when units arrived they saw there was heavy fire on the first floor of the home.
Yu Jin Lee, who lives directly across the street, woke up on Sunday morning when she thought she heard her car alarm. Her three-year-old had also entered the room to wake her, Lee guessed because she was startled by the noise.
As soon as she looked outside, she said, she saw a column of flames.
“It was shocking,” she said. “All I kept thinking was ‘What do I have to do?’”
The fire was under control by 5:20 a.m. No firefighters were injured during the incident.
Neither Villafane nor Lee said they had any contact with Brown. Lee said she would occasionally see her smoking outside and Villafane said she and Rebecchi would exchange pleasantries every so often.
The cause of the fire is accidental electrical issues, possibly involving an extension cord, according to the FDNY.