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2 Women Die In Fast-Moving Rockland Fire

An elderly woman and her daughter were found dead at 36 Stratford Place in New City early Thursday morning.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m.) Clarkstown Police have identified the two women who died in Thursday morning's fatal fire as Barbara Calise, 79, and Yvonne Calise, 54. Their bodies were found inside the house.

Police are investigating the cause of the fire and say it does not appear to be suspicious.  Their preliminary investigation shows it may have started in the basement.

UPDATE (4 A.M.): A fast-moving fire in a New City home killed two women and destroyed the two-story house early this morning.

New City volunteer firefighters said that in the few minutes between the 911 call for help from inside the home and their arrival at the home at 36 Stratford Place the victims were trapped in a front room on the first floor of the house.

New City Fire Chief Kenny Flynn said he was among the first firefighters to arrive at the 12:17 a.m. fire and he could immediately see the rear of the home was fully engulfed by flames. Flynn said he and other firefighters could not get into the home through the rear and when they tried to get in through front door, the entire first floor of the home burst into flames.

Flynn said the cause of the fire is uncertain and part of the investigation into the fire will be an attempt to determine whether the home had working smoke detectors. Clarkstown police arson investigators and Clarkstown fire inspectors were going through the rubble of the home this morning, and members of the Rockland County Medical Examiner's Office arrived at about 3:30 a.m.

The fire brought out more than 100 volunteer firefighters from New City and six other nearby fire departments. One firefighter suffered what appeared to be a minor injury from debris getting into his eyes, Flynn said.

Flynn noted that when residents of the home call 911 they apparently thought there might be a fire in the laundry room. After firefighters used a fire department taker truck and hose lines from a nearby fire hydrant to battle the blaze and push back the flames they were able to enter the home and search for victims.

Firefighters discovered found the body of the two women in a front room on the south side of the house.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down in about 45 minutes, but firefighters were finding pockets of fire throughout the house for more than two hours. Neighboring homes on the street - just a few blocks north of Germonds Road and just west of Felix Festa Middle School - were not affected by the fire.

Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren Jr. said family members of the victims have been notified about the deaths.

This was the second fatal fire in New City in less than a year, following the death of a woman in her Central Avenue home. The fire was also the second double-fatal incident in New City in less than two weeks, coming after the deaths of two Congers men in a crash on Strawtown Road.

In addition to members of the New City Fire Department and Clarkstown police, crews assisting in the emergency effort included the Nanuet, West Nyack, Congers, Hillcrest, Haverstraw and Theills fire departments, members of the New City and Nanuet volunteer ambulance squads and members of Rockland Paramedics.

3 a.m.

Gordon Wren, County Fire Coordinator, said that New City Fire Department and EMS received the call to the scene around 12:31 a.m.

“When they got on scene ... they found a building well (engulfed) with fire. The initial dispatcher indicated that there was a possibility that there would be victims inside the house.”

Clarkstown fire inspectors and arson detectives are working on the cause of the fire and whether or not there were smoke detectors, said Wren.

"Police are conducting their investigation, which will be ongoing for quite some time," said George Drescher, deputy fire inspector. "It was a heavy volume of fire.” He added that the fire departments did all they could, but that the fire had gotten so large by the time they arrived on scene, so much of the house is damaged.

“We got the fire under control in about 45 minutes,” said Drescher, adding that about 100 firefighters were involved.

The medical examiner needed to investigate the scene as well. It has not been determined where the fire started or the cause.

Thiells Fire Department was also assisting. New City EMS, Nanuet EMS and Rockland Paramedics arrived at the scene but were not needed. 

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1 a.m.

A fire in a New City home late Wednesday night left two women dead. 

They were found at the home at 36 Stratford Place, according to Clarkstown Sgt. Ken Smith. "We had two fatalities, an elderly woman and her handicapped daughter."

Volunteers from the New City, Congers, Nanuet, Hillcrest and West Nyack Fire Departments put out the blaze. Rockland Paramedics and the New City Ambulance Corps were among those also on the scene.  

The fire spread to most of the structure before it was put out. 

As of 1 a.m., the cause of the fire was unknown and under investigation. Smith said that the investigation would probably take the entire day on Thursday. 

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