Simone Deverson, 71, was taken to Franklin General Hospital in where she was pronounced dead, Sgt. Billy Stiles said. Five residents of the home were also taken to Franklin General for minor injuries, he said.
The blaze broke out shortly before 2 a.m. in the two-story home at 117-11 231st St. and was brought under control by city firefighters by 2:20 a.m., Fireman Mike Prendergast said.
By midday, the home's broken front windows had been covered by plastic, and charred belongings and clothes lay on top of the metal awning.
Dr. Luc Bernard, who has lived down the block from Deverson for 30 years, described the grandmother as a hero who woke up her family and their tenants to get them out of the home.
"She died saving other people's lives," he said.
Prendergast said the cause of the fire was still under investigation, but the NYPD cited the origin of the blaze as faulty electrical wiring in a rear bedroom on the second floor of the brick home.
One neighbor said she called police after she heard a loud pop and saw flames shooting out of the home's back window.
"It was scary," said the neighbor, who did not give her name. After calling police, the woman said she began knocking on her neighbor's doors to alert the family to the fire.
Ronald and Celeste Sloan, who have lived next door to the Deverson family for 16 years, said one of their distressed neighbors began banging on their door around 2 a.m. screaming "fire!" The neighbors called 911 and stayed with the Sloans until authorities arrived.
"The fire must have been going very hard," Ronald Sloan said. "The flames were raging out of the back window."
The victim was Haitian as is her husband and primarily spoke French, they said.
Bernard said Deverson had two bad knees and her husband had a pacemaker. He said many of the neighbors on the block came out of their homes when the fire trucks and emergency vehicles arrived.
"She was well liked by everyone," he said, shaking his head. "She was still working. It's really a loss."
©2000 Community News Group
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