Editor's Note: This story has been updated.
YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Two people were killed early Monday morning as a fire engulfed a house at 1703 Central St., according to Yorktown Fire Chief Jay Swart.
The Yorktown Heights Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched at 2:58 a.m. to what Swart said was a complicated scene and the first fire to result in fatalities in Yorktown “in a number of years.” The flames that engulfed the home reached so high they could be seen from a distance, he said.
Jeffrey Veatch, who has lived across the street from the victims for 20 years, identified them as Jeffrey and Helen Ginman, a couple in their 70s.
After seeing the fire just before 3 a.m. Veatch said that he got dressed and banged on the doors and windows in an attempt to wake the couple. His wife called 9-1-1.
“I couldn’t rouse anybody by banging on the front door, which was locked,” he said. “It was just engulfed completely—they had no chance.”
The Yorktown Heights Volunteer Fire Department was able to prevent the fire from spreading to neighboring homes and was able to gain entry and remove the victims from the home.
“Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done for them,” Swart said.
Helen, he said, was removed minutes after arrival. Structural damage limited access to Jeffrey, who was removed “a while later,” after responders could gain access.
Veatch said Jeffrey was pulled from the back of the home, where he believes the couple’s bedroom was located.
Swart said he was not at liberty to confirm the identities of the victims, as the investigation is ongoing. He did confirm the two died as a result of injuries sustained in the fire.
The suspected cause of the fire has also not yet been released, though preliminary investigation does not indicate anything suspicious, according to the Yorktown Police Department.
Swart described the fire as severe. In addition to the fatalities, the structural damage was significant and included floor, ceiling and roof collapse, with visible damage to the exterior.
A firefighter assist and search team from Bedford Hills assisted Yorktown in accessing the fire aerially, as utility wires and the landscape created a difficult site to navigate, Swart said. Additionally, interior access was challenging due to the extensive structural damage and, he said, the fire took several hours to extinguish.
Engines, cascade trucks and standby coverage was provided to both the Yorktown Fire Department and Bedford Hills Fire Department by neighbors Mount Kisco, Buchanan and Millwood.
Swart said the fire department will release more information once the investigation has concluded.
The couple is survived by two sons, Veatch said, who arrived at the house later that morning to search the debris for any salvageable items.
“[Jeffrey and Helen] were always very nice neighbors and good to our kids,” Veatch recalled.
Jeffrey had a long career with Energizer Batteries and retired about six years ago, Veatch said. Helen was disabled as long as Veatch had known her and, in recent years, the pair spent much of their time at home.
The tragedy comes as a shock to the neighborhood, where, Veatch said, the neighbors look out for each other. The only comparable incident, Veatch said, is a fire that occurred a few years ago and resulted in similar structural damage, but no deaths.
“The fact is it’s a nice residential area and this never happens,” Veatch said.