Elderly Woman Dies after Fire in Northwest Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. Landlord Dick Matewosian said his brother first saw smoke coming from the apartment. "I told him, go save the lady. He went in there and he overcame from the smoke, and he fell down he barely made it out. And then when I came I tried to get it, when I went in it was just terrible, I couldn't see nothing. I couldn't breathe. It was terrible." Matewosian said.

Firefighters were on the scene within three minutes, and rushed in. They were able to pull the woman from the apartment and provide medical treatment. But the woman, identified as 86-year-old Brunette Cuccarese was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later. An official cause of death has not been released. One of her neighbors, Guy Escobido said he was shocked by her death.

"When I saw that woman on the ground I really felt bad for her. She was good woman, she never hurt anybody she was very independent." Escobido said.

Matewosian said Cuccarese was not able to get around very well. Neighbors said she was a heavy smoker. Gary Eberhard of the Fresno Fire Department said a cigarette may have caused the fire.

"Right now investigators are leaning toward smoking material was whether put in a trash can, or put into some kind of receptacle and that smothered or smoldered for awhile until it started to catch fire." Eberhard said.

Cuccarese had lived in the apartment for more than 25 years. Damage to her apartment was estimated at around $40,000. No other units were damaged.

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