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92-year-old woman killed in fire in Jamaica Estates

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An elderly Jamaica Estates woman was found dead in her home Saturday night after a blaze broke out in her Kent Street house.

Hazel Ehmke, 92, was home alone at 81-21 Kent St. at about 7 p.m. Saturday night when the fire started, said Ehmke’s daughter.

“I wasn’t here,” said the daughter, who did not give her name. “If I had been, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Neighbors said Ehmke’s only living relative was her daughter, who wept when she talked about the blaze Sunday morning.

“I just want to hold her,” she said, fighting back tears.

The Fire Department said Sunday the cause of the fire, which took firefighters more than an hour to quench in the two-story brick and stucco house, was still under investigation. Initial police reports said the cause was electrical. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.

The medical examiner had not determined the exact cause of death as of presstime Tuesday.

A neighbor across the street said he spotted the flames and called the Fire Department before trying to save Ehmke.

“I tried to break the door to pull her out, but the fire and smoke blew me back,” said the man, who did not identify himself. “It was an inferno.”

Another neighbor, John Morris, said firefighters gave “a massive response — there were flames coming out of the side and we heard them say the second floor was collapsing.”

Morris described Ehmke as “a nice lady” whose family has lived in the home since it was built in the 1930s.

But other neighbors who did not want to be named said the house was a fire “waiting to happen,” and that it was poorly maintained.

By Sunday morning the property was strewn with garbage and broken glass, and the left side of the home was blackened. Water could be seen shooting up unchecked from the kitchen sink through a burnt out window.

Neighbors expressed concerned about what they said was a series of fires in the area over the past several months, including one on Chevy Chase Street and another on nearby Tudor Road.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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