Grandmother dies in St. Albans blaze

By Howard Koplowitz

The Fire Department was criticized by City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and the fire union for not responding to the blaze fast enough. Emma Calendar was found by firefighters sitting in a chair in the living room of the two-story home, according to a deputy fire chief who responded to the two-alarm blaze at 183-48 Babylon Ave. She was dead when firefighters arrived.About 100 firefighters from 25 units responded to the fire at around 3 p.m. It took about an hour to extinguish.The deputy fire chief said the first firefighter, who was off-duty at the time, arrived within four minutes. He said there was “heavy fire on the first floor,” which quickly extended into the attic of the home.He said two firefighters sustained burn injuries.Ricardo Louis, the off-duty firefighter, said he was in the neighborhood and rushed to the home after he smelled smoke.”I tried to get in, but it was heavy smoke and a lot of heat,” Louis said.Fire marshals were investigating the cause of the blaze, but it was not deemed suspicious.”It was like 9/11 the way flames were coming out,” one witness said.Comrie criticized the Fire Department for its response to the blaze and its difficulty in breaking metal bars on the windows of Calendar's home.”The FDNY failed to dispatch an adequate number of ladder companies to this fire and an 87-year-old New Yorker died… because there weren't enough ladder trucks to remove the security bars and gain access.”Members of Calendar's family wailed in disbelief after learning about her death. One relative was bent over a car and crying as Red Cross personnel tried to comfort him.Gwen Worthy, Calendar's longtime neighbor, said the 87-year-old “was one of the parents on the block. She used to come sit outside during the summer.”Worthy said Calendar lived in the home with her two sons and a daughter-in-law.The other family members were not home at the time of the fire, the deputy fire chief said.Another neighbor who did not want to be identified said Calendar “was a very beautiful woman and everybody loved her.”Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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