ATLANTIC CITY — Two passers-by helped rescue an elderly woman Wednesday just before flames that raced through her four-story home on Dover Avenue left the building uninhabitable.
“They got me out awful fast,” said Adele Delfiner, 84, sitting across the street in a white chair watching firefighters work on her home. “I’m all right, I’m just a little shaken up. ... You never, never, never expect something like this.”
Around 9:15 a.m., about 40 firefighters responded to 105 Dover Ave. and found flames on the third floor of the home, fire Chief Scott Evans said. The fire is the sixth in the city in seven days, Evans said.
The blaze burned for more than an hour, but there were no injuries. The residence is home to two women, Delfiner and a tenant of the first-floor apartment, who got out of the home on her own Wednesday.
The fire was under control around 10:40 a.m., Evans said.
Delfiner, who has owned the home for 25 years, said she was in the kitchen on her way out the door to go to a yoga class when she found out there was a fire.
“The guy who comes to check on me every day went up the back and tried to open the door,” she said. “Then he saw black smoke and fire.”
The two passers-by credited with helping Delfiner were identified as Steve Greenwood, 49, of Absecon, and Noel Malave, 32, of Egg Harbor Township. They were passing Dover Avenue on different work assignments when they saw the smoke.
“I get a whiff of paper burning, I slow down, I look back, I see smoke just starting to come out of the eaves of a house,” said Greenwood, a senior engineering aide for Atlantic City.
He said he immediately got out of his truck and called 911, then approached the building that had smoke coming from it. That’s when he spotted Malave , a day-time supervisor with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Special Improvement District, who was on his way to do a bathroom inspection on Bartram Avenue when he saw black smoke coming from the home.
Both went up to the residence’s porch, where the front door was open and the screen door was exposed. Malave said he peeked his head inside and asked if anyone was there and if they had called 911.
“It was just like at first, no hesitation, I just went right on in,” Malave said, adding that Greenwood also was on the scene. “We both went in there; we got her out.”
Greenwood said he helped Delfiner gather her things and grabbed her a chair on the way out of the building because he didn’t want her to sit on the curb.
“I didn’t care at that point, it didn’t matter,” Greenwood said of walking into the building with smoke coming out the sides. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Malave said he stayed on the scene for four hours after the fire started to make sure everything was OK and that Delfiner had a place to go.
Fire Capt. Michael Famularo also arrived before the firetrucks to assist with the rescues, Evans said.
Firefighters believe the blaze originated on the rear of the third floor and then spread to the fourth floor. The cause is under investigation.
The houses on both sides of Delfiner’s sustained slight exterior damage. The house on the left had some melting of the siding, but no interior damage, Evans said.
Additional mutual aid from surrounding departments was called to assist with patrolling the rest of the city while the firefighters battled the blaze.
“Upon arrival, the rear of the building was in flames,” Evans said. “The wind was a concern, but it wasn’t heavy.”
Evans added that because the home is a wood structure and there are dozens of solar panels on the roof, it made it more difficult for firefighters to battle the flames. The wood foundation makes it spread more rapidly, he said, and firefighters had to do some interior work to put out the fire.
“The solar panels presented an additional hazard,” Evans said. “Not only do we know it’s live electricity on the roof, but it also prevented us from cutting an effective ventilation hole in the roof.”
Sister Sylvia Giraldo, 68, lives across the street of the home. She said she heard there was a fire and came out to check on Delfiner. Giraldo also prayed, she said, holding up her rosary.
“One of my sisters told me come and see, the house is burning,” she said. “Prayer ... is the most powerful thing in our life.”
Tim Friel, 58, of Margate, a retired deputy police chief in Atlantic City, was biking in the area when he saw the fire and stopped along the Boardwalk to watch.
“There were flames coming out the back windows, a whole lot of smoke,” he said.
The Fire Department responded to back-to-back fires Monday afternoon. Also on Monday, a house caught on fire in neighboring Ventnor, displacing a family of three.
Additional fires included: on Friday, A&B Market on Ventnor Avenue; on Monday, a garbage bin fire on South Carolina Avenue; on Monday, a building on Westminister Avenue; and on Friday, a bedroom fire at 600 N. Robinson Ave. Evans said there also was an electrical fire in wall at Harrah’s reported at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.