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Deadly Elmhurst House Fire Sparked by Unattended Candle: FDNY

By  Katie Honan Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | October 8, 2013 11:23am 

 The fire on Oct. 7 left a mother dead and her only son badly burned.
The fire on Oct. 7 left a mother dead and her only son badly burned.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan/Balcazar Family

ELMHURST — A deadly fire that killed a mother and badly burned her only son was sparked by an unattended candle, fire officials said.

Stella Balcazar, 57, died Oct. 7 after being rushed to Elmhurst Hospital in cardiac arrest and with severe burns following the fire at her home at 42-20 74th St., near Woodside Avenue, the FDNY said.

Family members said Balcazar, who worked as a cleaner, lived in the home with her 20-year-old son, James Steven Abonia.

He was rushed to Weill-Cornell Hospital where he is being treated for third-degree burns, an FDNY spokesman said.

Witnesses said the early morning blaze moved quickly through the two-story home, catching sleeping residents by surprise.

Susan Attardi, 49, who lives next door, said she was woken up by her roommate, who smelled smoke and rushed them out of the house, she said.

"We came out and the flames were shooting out to the sidewalk," Attardi said. "The fire department was here ... They had to contain it before they could go in."

It took an hour and a half to contain the fire, which was out by 5 a.m., FDNY officials said.

Carlos Balcazar, 61 said his sister was a loving mother.

"He was everything to her," Carlos said of Abonia. "That was her only son."

Four other civilians and three firefighters were treated at Elmhurst Hospital for minor injuries, the FDNY said.