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Auburndale woman killed in house blaze

Firefighters file into the Auburndale home that was gutted by a blaze early Sunday morning. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

An Auburndale woman died when the house where she was born caught fire Sunday morning, although her cousin made it out of the inferno in time.

Joanne Brown, 63, was pronounced dead outside her home, at 45-08 189th St., after the blaze began around 4:45 a.m., according to the FDNY.

One neighbor, whose girlfriend was alerted to the fire by the sound of the home crackling from the heat, said he rushed out to find flames pouring out of the first-floor windows.

“It was intense, there were flames all over the place,” said Angelo Dominguez, who lives two houses down. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Dominguez found the city’s Bravest already on the scene and his neighbor, John Rebecchi, on the front lawn, black marks of smoke on his face.

“He kept saying, ‘Get Joanne out. Get Joanne out. She’s in there,’” Dominguez said.

Rebecchi is Brown’s cousin, and the two had been living together for the last 10 years, according to family members and neighbors.

Brown was born in the 189th Street home and grew up with three brothers — George, Stephen and Robert — according to her cousin, Geraldine Schroeder. Although Brown moved to a house on Pigeon Meadow Road and took care of her mother for years, she moved back into the family home with her cousin nearly a decade ago.

Both Brown and Rebecchi had health problems and took care of each in the house, Schroeder said. Rebecchi had previously worked at a landscaping business started by his father before becoming injured on the job, she said.

He was treated for smoke inhalation and taken to New York Hospital Queens. He was released later in the day, according to family members.

Firefighters found Brown in the house, but were too late. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the FDNY.

Her sister, who lives in Pennsylvania, was en route to Flushing Sunday afternoon, as was Rebecchi’s brother.

Dominguez had the unfortunate experience of witnessing firefighters bring Brown out of the home early in the morning.

“We all know each other on this block, so it’s sad,” Dominguez said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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