Clarkstown police believe there were no smoke detectors in the New City home that was destroyed early this morning when a fast-moving blaze killed two women who became trapped in the house.
After an investigation of the overnight blaze at 36 Stratford Place, police said today they are still uncertain what caused the fire. However, police are not considering the fire a suspicious incident.
Detectives believe the fire is likely to have started in the basement at the rear of the two-story home, and could have been building up and went undetected by the residents of the home, Barbara Calise, 79, and her daughter, Yvonne Calise, 54, until it was too late.
Police said the older Calise called 911 to report the fire and apparently went to a front room on the first floor of the home that served as a bedroom for the daughter, who was disabled. Investigators believe the women were overcome by the heavy smoke and fire from the blaze.
Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren Jr. said family members thought the house may have been equipped with a very old smoke detector. But Wren said no evidence of a smoke detector was found and firefighters who were among the first to arrive at the house did not hear a smoke detector sounding.
Wren said a review of the 911 tapes from the call for help from the Calise home did not detect the sound of a smoke alarm going off.
The rear of the home was engulfed by flames by the time volunteer firefighters arrived shortly after midnight this morning. New City Fire Chief Kenny Flynn said it was impossible for him and other firefighters to get into the rear of the home, and when they tried to go through the front door the first floor of the home flashed over with flames that pushed firefighters back.
This is the second fatal fire in New City within a year, following the blaze that killed a resident of Central Avenue. That home also did not have smoke detectors.
Firefighters urge residents to make sure smoke detectors are installed and to check them to make sure they are functioning.