Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 9, 2013

Victims of fatal North Tonawanda fire identified

Niagara Gazette —

A mother and daughter who died in a fire at their North Tonawanda home Monday night have been identified. 

Dorothy Burns, 84, was found lifeless in the front bedroom of the house she reportedly rented at 53 Third Avenue, when firefighters forced entry just before 10 p.m. on Monday and attempted to revive her. A short while later Burns was pronounced dead outside the home.  

Her daughter, Kathleen Watson, 62, was discovered unconscious moments later near a rear entrance to the structure and was rushed to DeGraff Memorial Hospital, where she also perished. 

Police and firefighters were called to the home after a neighbor saw smoke billowing from the two-story home and felt heat emanating from its front door. A 911 call was first placed at 9:49 p.m. to Niagara County dispatchers. 

Within minutes, police and firefighters descended on the quiet street with a mix of single-family and two-unit homes as neighbors flooded outside to watch the scene unfold.  

In little over an hour, with a small fire found in the living room quickly extinguished and more than 100 emergency workers taking over Third Avenue, mother and daughter had succumbed to smoke inhalation — what coroners deemed Tuesday to be the cause of death for both victims. 

But as residents of the street try to process the tragedy that befell the neighbors they hardly knew and rarely saw, North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham said unconfirmed reports of explosions are still be investigated.

One firefighter sustained minor injuries with a laceration to his hand. Damages are estimated at $35,000. 

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