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Two women die in North Tonawanda house fire

NORTH TONAWANDA – An elderly woman and her middle-aged daughter were killed late Monday night during a fire that ripped through their 1½-story frame home, city police and fire officials reported.

Dorothy Burns, who was 83, was pulled from a front bedroom at 53 Third Ave., but efforts to resuscitate her on the front lawn were unsuccessful, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

North Tonawanda firefighters pulled her daughter, Kathy Watson, 62, out through a rear door in the home, after she was found near that exit. She died in DeGraff Memorial Hospital.

Firefighters responded to a 9:49 p.m. alarm, and the first responders arrived three minutes later.

“We had both victims out of the building fairly quickly, within two minutes,” North Tonawanda Fire Chief John C. Lapham said.

“It’s horrible,” he added. “I take it very personally when it happens in my own city. It doesn’t happen very often.”

Neighbors reported hearing what they thought was an explosion or series of explosions, but it remained unclear this morning whether that could have been either thunder or the sound of firefighters gaining entry to the burning house.

The cause remains under investigation, and North Tonawanda police detectives late this morning were attending autopsies for the two victims.

North Tonawanda firefighters, including 28 paid members and 40 volunteers, put out the blaze quickly. The fire was concentrated in the first-floor front living area, including a living room and dining room. An emergency team from the City of Tonawanda also rushed to the scene.

Fire officials listed an estimated $35,000 damage to the small cottage-like home.

Neighbors described the mother and daughter as private, even reclusive, and several neighbors didn’t even know their names.