An 89-year-old grandmother who was rescued from her burning North Buffalo home by an off-duty police officer July 22 has died from her injuries, fire officials reported Monday.
Florence Winarske, of Doyle Avenue, died Sunday afternoon in Erie County Medical Center's burn unit.
She had been in the hospital since the fire, which left her critically injured with severe burns to her hands, arms and face.
Lt. Sal Colangelo, commander of the Buffalo fire marshal's office, said the blaze was set accidentally.
"She had a candle burning on the kitchen countertop, and it started a kitchen fire," Colangelo said.
"There was a delayed call to the Fire Department because she was attempting to extinguish the fire herself, and the fire got too big. By the time she tried to exit the building, she was overcome by heat and smoke."
Winarske, who lived alone, collapsed near the front door as the flames and heat intensified inside the kitchen.
A 7-year-old girl was playing with a friend at a nearby house when she smelled smoke about 3:10 p.m. The girl rushed home and alerted her father, Detective Sgt. Harvey M. Frankel, an off-duty Buffalo police officer.
Frankel grabbed his cell phone and called 911 as he ran to Winarske's home.
When he arrived and opened the front door, the house was engulfed with heavy smoke.
He pulled her through the door and onto the front lawn. An ambulance took Winarske to the hospital.
Colangelo said Frankel's fearless actions should be commended.
"He did a heroic deed," Colangelo said. "He made entry into a burning building and took a victim out. He's a hero."
Colangelo, who investigated the case along with Fire Marshals Edwin Ortiz and Harold Emerson, advised residents to avoid fighting fires themselves.
"Get out as soon as you can," he said. "Fires spread very rapidly. Call 911 from a neighbor's house."
Winarske is the city's fifth fire fatality of the year. The city's first was Cecelia Powenski, 81, who died two weeks after her clothes caught fire while she was cooking in her Debra Lane town house Jan. 11.
Marion Brown, 9, and his younger brother, Pierre Gotel, 8, died of third-degree burns after flames erupted inside their B Street home on March 24.
On June 22, 13-year-old Jermea Simmons is accused of starting a blaze at her Sprenger Avenue home that killed her stepgrandfather, Vincent Fairfax, 43.
The murder and arson case against Jermea is expected to go to an Erie County grand jury this month.