Fire that destroyed elderly couple’s home under investigation

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Fire destroyed a home in the City of Tonawanda, but the cause of the fire remains unknown, and police are treating it like a crime scene.

Officials say an elderly couple, Al and Claire Festaiuti, who lived inside the Coronet Drive home made it out okay, though the husband is being treated for mild smoke inhalation.

Fire investigators are now working to learn what started the fire that destroyed the home. Shortly before the fire started, police say they were called by the elderly couple’s son who lives in Clarence for a domestic issue on his mother’s behalf.

“Before they got here, before the police pulled up, the fire started. In speaking with the daughter, she doesn’t even think the parents knew there was a fire in the house,” said City of Tonawanda Fire Chief Charles Stuart.

Longtime neighbor Ricky Davis says Al was disoriented and confused at the time due to his dementia and Parkinson’s. Davis has watched him deteriorate recently.

“It’s been getting worse,” he said. “Al and Claire and one of their daughters were in the street. I took them some blankets because they were just in their pajamas.”

The elderly couple made it out of the home before police and firefighters arrived. Chief Stuart believes the fire started in a bedroom. After the fire was out, the couple’s dog was found dead in that room.

“It’s fairly gutted. Burned through from the front to the back. Some salvageable items in the basement but for the most part this fire took off really, really fast and despite our best efforts it pretty much consumed everything on the first floor,” said Chief Stuart.

Davis says it’s difficult to think about his neighbors not being next door.

“They’ve been perfect neighbors. This definitely a tragedy. We’re going to miss them and hope they’ll be okay whatever they wind up doing,” he said.

Damage is estimated between $80,000 and $100,000.

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