KINGSBURY — An elderly woman walked away unharmed late Monday morning after hiding inside her burning, condemned home, the fire apparently ignited when flames spread from a neighbor’s lawn where leaves were being burned.
Kingsbury Volunteer Hose Company Assistant Fire Chief John Aiken said, “Fire departments were dispatched to an apparent brush fire that extended into a shed, then extended into the house.”
An initial sweep of the home did not find anyone at 23 9th Ave., but in a second search, the woman was found on the couch in the one-story ranch home, Aiken said.
According to Washington County property records, the damaged home is owned by Mary Frawley Smith.
Neighbors on 9th Avenue waited anxiously, fearing the worst and reminiscing about Smith before firefighters emerged with her from the house.
“Her clothes were soaking wet, but she was her same old self,” said neighbor Michelle Scarselletta.
Smith was treated in the front yard, got up and then walked off the property before neighbors convinced her to be evaluated at the hospital. She was transported to the hospital by Fort Edward EMS.
Neighbors said she lived alone, and her husband had died a number of years ago.
Scarselletta said she called 911 and ran over to the house and started “banging on the door.”
She said two men used a brick or a rock to break in the front glass door, but did not find anyone home.
“I had a feeling she was in there. It is a miracle she is here,” Scarselletta said of Smith.
The home and the garage were engulfed by smoke and experienced significant damage. Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the day.
Scarselletta said the house had been condemned and lacks electricity and water, but Smith would “sneak back in at night.”
She likely feared she was going to get in trouble for staying in the house, Scarselletta said.
Linda Ciccone and Dawn Lettus said Smith could get around on her own and would walk up and down the road. Neighbors would take turns mowing her lawn.
Washington County fire investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.
Aiken said leaves were being burning in the backyard of 26 8th Ave. The homes share backyards.
The 8th Avenue home also sustained some fire damage on the rear. It is unclear if the property owners will face charges as the investigation continues.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, a statewide burn ban is in effect through May 14. The burning of leaves and garbage is prohibited year-round.
Kingsbury, Hudson Falls, Bay Ridge and South Queensbury responded to the scene and were assisted by Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Edward EMS.