A house fire at 775 River Road that claimed the lives of two people early Friday morning was ruled accidental, according to Bethlehem Police.
Police discovered the bodies of Robert Newberry, 61, and Susan Newberry, 60, after area firefighters battled the intense blaze for about two hours.
A series of explosions occurred as fire crews arrived on the scene.
There were about five explosions when I pulled up, said Selkirk Fire Chief William Borger. `It took an hour to extinguish the flames and then another hour before it was completely out.`
The cause of the fire was the result of some type of smoking material.
`Because of the intensity of the fire, they were unable to locate what the material might have been,` said Bethlehem Police Lieutenant Thomas Heffernan, adding that a lighter or cigarette may have ignited the fire. `At this time the fire appears to be consistent with an ignition cause by smoking materials.`
Investigators have determined that the fire began on the west end of a couch in the living room, near the body of Robert Newberry. Firefighters believe the explosions heard were the result of oxygen tanks being inside the home at the time the blaze broke out.
Robert Newberry died of `extreme thermal burns,` and Susan Newberry died of smoke inhalation, according to Heffernan. Police say the first victim was found in the living room area and the second was found in a bathroom near the rear of the house.
The house was a single-story ranch, and most of the fire damage appeared to be centralized in the middle of the home.
Borger said that Selkirk, Coeymans, and New Baltimore fire departments responded to the fire, and police received numerous telephone calls from nearby residents. Police say the calls came in at approximately 1:52 a.m.
There were about nine fire trucks on the scene, Borger said, and firefighters tapped into a nearby water hydrant about 100 feet up the road.
River Road was closed down while crews contained the fire, but no responders were hurt, according to Borger. After the fire was put out, investigators entered the home to determine its cause and discovered the bodies.
The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms assisted Bethlehem Police and Fire Investigators in the case.“