Fatal house fire in London
Friends and family have identified the victim of a fatal fire on Sunday evening as 83-year-old Merle Ellis.
Emergency responders were called to 283 Tremont Rd. near Clarke Road and Trafalgar Street around 8:10 p.m.
Fire crews were alerted that someone may be inside the building and Ellis was pulled from the home shortly after.
Crews immediately focused on trying to resuscitate Ellis but were unsuccessful.
Neighbour Shirley Antonioli lived across the street from Ellis for more than 40 years, with the two families having moved into their homes within a year of each other.
"She was a beautiful lady, great neighbour and very kind," said Antonioli.
She cared for Ellis' cat after it was rescued by fire crews.
London fire crews attended a blaze at 238 Tremont Rd. on Jan. 29 for working fire. (Source: London fire)
Ellis' son Todd arrived on the scene around 10 a.m. to retrieve the cat and to try to get what information was available from officials.
He told CTV News London his mother's health had been failing, including losing her eyesight.
He said she was scheduled to move into a long-term care facility on Wednesday.
Antonioli said prior to Sunday's tragedy, Ellis had numerous people drop by every day to check on her.
"She had her children and her grandchildren. She had friends of hers and I think a sister came to see her all the time as well," Antonioli told CTV News.
Numerous people visited the house on Monday morning, including one of her grandchildren.
A personal service worker arrived not knowing that Ellis passed away.
An Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office (OFM) investigator arrived at the scene around 11 a.m. and is being assisted by members of the London Fire Investigation Unit and London police as they work to determine a cause for the blaze.
"Our mandate is to be dispatched to all fatal fires and all serious injury fires,” said OFM investigator Jessica Reynolds. Reynolds said the investigation is in the early stages but, based on a preliminary assessment, the fire doesn't appear to be criminal in nature.
A fatal house fire on Tremont Road in London is being investigated. Jan. 30, 2023. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)
"At this time, no. But, then again, I'm going to be basing all of my conclusions on evidence and not conjecture,” she said.
She also can’t say at this time if smoke alarms in the house went off, and told CTV News London, “As of right now we have found a couple of smoke alarms in the house. Whether or not they’ve activated is still under investigation right now.”
Reynolds said the on-site investigation may extend into Tuesday. A probable cause may be available at that point, or it may require more time.
London fire officials said this was the first fatal fire in the city since 2021. The fire in 2021 was the only one of that year.
A post-mortem is being conducted under the direction of the Office of the Chief Coroner.
Antoniolo expressed gratitude to first responders who worked to resuscitate Ellis at the scene.
"When the funeral home came to pick her up there were firemen standing there at attention. It was just heartbreaking," she said.
A cause of the fire and an exact cause of death has yet to be determined.
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