A woman is dead after flames ripped through an apartment in the city of Groton Wednesday night.
Firefighters responded to the Branford Manor complex on Branford Avenue around 9 p.m. and found heavy fire coming from an apartment.
The woman who died is a resident of the building. She was the only one inside the apartment, officials said. She was found in a second-story bedroom.
Groton Police are not yet identifying the victim, who Police Chief Michael Spellman said was severely burned. They are waiting on dental records for definitive identification.
Her ex-boyfriend, Kenny Torres, told NBC Connecticut that he dated the victim for about six years. She had two children, one with him.
The victim’s older daughter called Torres Wednesday night asking him for help, according to Torres.
He said when he arrived, his ex was throwing glass and threw a Christmas tree outside. He got the two girls to safety but when he turned around the apartment was on fire.
Torres said he and neighbors tried to help her but the doors were locked and the flames were too intense.
So intense that City of Groton Fire Chief Robert Tompkins said firefighters could not immediately get upstairs to look for her.
“There appears to be no foul play involved in this case,” according to Spellman, who got the information for the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal is looking into a cause and origin, Spellman said.
Per protocol, police notified the Department of Children and Families of the incident, he added.
Michael Purdick, a resident of the building, said Wednesday night that he was one of the people trying to save the woman.
“The flames shot out. The smoke was barreling off the ground. I got about three feet into the house, crawling on my hands and knees, trying to get her,” Purdick said. “We’re screaming for her and she’s not answering us back. I couldn’t go any further. I had to turn around and come back out.”
Next-door neighbor Kevin Stamps said he also stepped in.
“We (were) trying to get the door open. Banging on the door, trying to break the locks. Finally we break the locks, the flames came out,” Stamps said.
When he rushed his family out of his home Wednesday night, Stamps’ was separated from his six-month-old puppy who ran in a different direction. Thursday they were reunited.
“I’m happy to have him,” Stamps said. “This is all I was worried about last night.”
Four units were evacuated, including Stamps’ and Patience Clarke’s. She borders the victim on the other side.
““It’s horrible to lose your mother at Christmas time. The older one’s old enough to know everything going on. She’s going to need a lot of support,” Clarke said.
She got the call about the fire from another neighbor, and called their development it a close-knit community. Clarke said the victim and her children would play with her son.
“She loved her kids. She was very inclusive,” Clarke said.
She lost everything in the fire, including her Christmas presents.
“All of our clothes. (My son) just went to school in the same clothes he was wearing yesterday,” according to Clarke.
Clarke and other neighbors said the property management company is looking to relocate them into new apartments in the next day or so, ahead of the Christmas holiday.
“It’s a lot more than I thought a building owner would do. They’re looking for other apartments. They’re trying to get some by tomorrow. They’re trying to get Christmas presents together. They’re asking for sizes for clothes,” Clarke said.
The City of Groton Police Department, through the City of Groton Police Union, along with other city agencies are fundraising for the victim’s family. Those interested in contributing can contact Rev. Coleman of St. John's Christian Church at 860-449-0331.