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Candle blamed in fatal fire: FDNY

Juan Carmona (r.) comforts another resident of the burned home after learning of Stella Balcazar's death. Photo by Christina Santucci
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An unattended candle was the cause of an early morning fire in Woodside Monday that took the life of a 57-year-old woman, police and fire officials said.

The blaze tore through a two-story home at 42-20 74th St. at 3:30 a.m., according to the Fire Department.

Stella Balcazar was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center in cardiac arrest, and she was pronounced dead later in the morning, according to the FDNY, a spokeswoman for Elmhurst Hospital and her relatives. An unidentified, 20-year-old man also suffered third-degree burns and was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center, a spokesman for the FDNY said.

Seven other people, including three firefighters, were transported to Elmhurst Hospital Center with injuries that were considered non-life-threatening, according to fire officials. The blaze was brought under control at 5 a.m., according to the FDNY.

Relatives of the victim and tenants of the 74th Street home consoled one another on the street Monday morning.

“She was a beautiful person,” said Balcazar’s niece Jelitza.

Juan Carmona, 23, said he had been renting a room in the home for the past three years and, when he smelled smoke early Monday, raced outside. After he reached the street, the fire became more intense, he aid.

“We really don’t know how the fire started,” Carmona said, after he had collected bags of clothes and paperwork from inside the charred home accompanied by authorities.

Jae Kim, 73, whose backyard borders the rear of the home where the fire took place, said she heard a commotion at about 3:30 a.m.

“The lady was making a lot of noise,” Kim said.

She and her husband walked to the corner of 74th Street and 43rd Avenue and saw the street blocked off by police and fire vehicles.

“Too much fire is coming out,” she said.

Another neighbor, Gopal Krisna, 33, said he would often greet Balcazar.

“I’ve never been inside, but we said hello every day,” said the 44th Avenue resident.

Krisna said she would offer him food during barbecues and he would instead accept a beverage since he is vegetarian.

“She was a very nice lady, very warm,” he said.

Managing Editor Christina Santucci contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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