Bayside woman, 77, dead in blaze at longtime home

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A 77-year-old woman died last week during a fire in the Bayside home where she had lived for more than 50 years.

The city medical examiner was still investigating the cause of the April 9 death of Shirley Baumser, who a neighbor said had moved into her two-story brick house at 32-32 208th St. in 1949.

“It looks like it was an accidental fire, nothing out of the ordinary,” said Lt. Raymond Spinella of the 111th Precinct.

Spinella said Baumser, who was alone in the house, was believed to have been cooking in the kitchen when something caught fire. A Fire Department spokesman said the cause of the fire was under investigation, but it did not appear to be suspicious.

The fire was reported at 11:42 a.m. and was brought under control at a minute before noon, a Fire Department spokesman said.

Sixty firefighters responded, and one was taken to North Shore University Hospital with a shoulder injury, the spokesman said.

Baumser’s family members declined to comment at the scene of the fire. The house’s front windows were boarded up, but the building’s front exterior appeared intact the next day.

A neighbor said Baumser, who had two sons and two daughters, had been widowed years earlier and lived in the house with one of her daughters.

Georgie McKenna, who lived next door to Baumser for five decades, said her son-in-law had arrived to pick her up for work when he noticed Baumser’s daughter in distress outside.

“I heard [him] say, ‘What’s the matter? What’s the matter?’” McKenna said.

She said Baumser’s daughter asked her to call 911 because she was unable to reach emergency services from her cell phone.

McKenna’s son-in-law, Ray Obiol, tried to get into the burning house by smashing a window, but bars prevented him from entering that way, she said.

When he finally made it inside, “it was all flames in the kitchen,” said Obiol, who also lives in Bayside.

Shirley Baumser retired years ago from a part-time job at an A&S Department Store in Manhasset, L.I. and her daughter had purchased a condominium in Florida so she could spend the winter months there, McKenna said.

Baumser recently had undergone triple-bypass surgery and used a walker, McKenna said.

McKenna, who owns the Carriage Stop antique store off Bell Boulevard, recalled the Baumsers’ having backyard barbecues and giving her borscht from the family’s pickle business in Brooklyn years ago.

“They were very good neighbors,” she said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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