2009-03-26 / Front Page


By Charles Rogers

Firefighters found the body of a 26-year-old resident at 1359 East 55th Street Tuesday afternoon. Photos by Charles Rogers
It took more than 100 firefighters to quell a fire Tuesday after an explosion rocked a house on East 55th Street near Avenue L and led to the death of a 26-year-old woman, authorities reported.

The fire broke out as a result of what some authorities determined was a gas explosion at 1359 East 55th Street at 2:46 p.m., according to Fire Department spokesman Frank Dwyer, who said the first alarm was sounded at that time and firefighters arrived within three minutes.

While fighting the fire, they discovered the body of Tamara Rawner on the floor of a second floor bedroom. Along with her elderly parents, Rawner was a resident of the two-story frame house.

The parents, who declined to give their names, said they had just left the house to do some shopping no more than 20 minutes before the explosion and came back a short time later to find the house engulfed in flames and smoke.

The fire was so intense, according to Dwyer, that a second alarm was sounded shortly after the first. He said the second call came at 2:57 p.m. and that the fire was finally deemed under control at 3:30 p.m. A total of 26 units, including rescue rigs, were sent to the blaze.

FDNY official, along with fire marshals, investigate site to check out the cause of the explosion.
Two neighbors, one who lives across the street from the fire and another who lives next door, said they tried to get into the house to see if they could rescue the screaming victim.

"But not only was there a lot of smoke, but when I went to the door there were too many flames for me to get in. It was horrible." The man declined to give his name.

The parents of the victim could be seen across the street as the fire was being fought. They were tended to and comforted by Emergency Medical Service personnel, firefighters and police from the 63rd Precinct.

Officials said fire marshals were still investigating the cause of the explosion and blaze, determining it to "probably" originate in a gas heater and not under suspicious circumstances.

A source said the victim, one of the family's 14 children, had recently come back to Brooklyn from California to live with her parents.  

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