by Ray Pauley
Public Information Officer, Grand Island Fire Co.
Shortly before 8 a.m. this morning, Grand Island Fire Co. firefighters responded to a structure fire at 3998 East River Road, which had been reported by a neighbor.
GIFC Chief Kevin Koch reported that when engines Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 and fire suppression crews arrived on location, heavy smoke conditions were encountered. A four-man search and rescue team located the 79-year-old occupant, identified as Reba J. Edwards, in an upstairs bedroom and removed her from the home. She was apparently overcome by smoke and a toxic atmosphere, and resuscitation was not possible.
The fire was knocked down and brought under control at 8:20 a.m. Meanwhile, mutual aid contingents from Sheridan Park Volunteer Fire Department and Brighton Volunteer Fire Department assisted at the scene, while a City of Tonawanda crew remained on standby at GIFC headquarters throughout firefighting operations.
Koch reported that the fire originated in a first-floor laundry room and caused an estimated $40,000 damage to the structure and $30,000 to the contents. GIFC Fire Investigator Chuck Berlinger and his Erie County Sheriff's Office counterparts have not yet determined the exact cause.
One GIFC firefighter sustained a back injury at the scene and was relieved of duty.
All participating fire units were returned to service by 9:34 a.m., according to Koch.