A mother and her disabled daughter died in an intense early-morning fire that heavily damaged a Crane Street house.

The 47-year-old mother, Maureen Gerrity, and her 19-year-old daughter, Katherine Rose O'Neill, were overcome in a second-floor bedroom of 135 Crane St., where they were both found shortly after firefighters arrived on the scene just after 1 a.m. Monday.

Both were rescued from the bedroom within about eight minutes of firefighters' arrival at the scene and transported to Bridgeport Hospital, where they later died. The victims' identities were officially confirmed by fire officials late Monday afternoon.

The girl, who was known as Katie at Fairfield Warde High School where she attended special-education programs, used a wheelchair. She was described as "severely handicapped" by a neighbor, but despite her disabilities was also a smiling young woman with a sweet disposition.

Fire officials would not speculate Monday whether the pair may have perished as the mother tried to help her daughter escape the fire.

The cause of the fire at the two-story Cape was accidental, according to preliminary indications from fire investigators Monday evening. The blaze apparently started in the first-floor living room, and gradually grew into an inferno that a neighborhood caller to emergency dispatchers described as "flames pouring out of the house."

However, investigators had not identified the specific cause of the fire's ignition because, according to Assistant Fire Chief Christopher Tracy, the intense heat from the blaze destroyed much of the potential evidence.

A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said she was still awake and watching television sometime after 1 a.m. Monday when she heard a police car rush down Crane Street. When she looked outside the woman said she saw five fire trucks, two rescue vehicles and two ambulances in front of the Gerrity house.

"The flames were so high and the smoke so thick," the woman said of the blaze.

There were no working smoke detectors found in the house, officials said, but there were two carbon-monoxide detectors, which were activated by the fire. The house was owned by Maureen Gerrity, according to online tax records.

The fire at 135 Crane St. was reported by a neighbor shortly before 1 a.m., who heard shattering sounds when a front window of the house across the street blew out as the blaze gathered intensity.

The first firefighters on the scene encountered heavy flames on both the first and second floors of the two-story Cape, according to the fire report.

The neighbor also told firefighters that two occupants still were believed to be inside the burning building, which officials said likely had been smoldering for some time.

Assistant Fire Chief George Gomola, the commander at the scene, was the first to arrive and reported "heavy fire showing from the (front and right side) with two people trapped."

Gomola directed fire crews from Engines 1, 2, 3 and 4, and Ladder trucks 1 and 2, in attacking the fire and searching for occupants.

A ladder crew gained entry through a first-floor window and battled heavy heat and smoke to make their way to the second floor, while another ladder crew set up a ladder to the second floor bedroom window to vent the dwelling and press the search for anyone inside.

The mother and daughter were found in a second-floor bedroom and transferred to a waiting AMR ambulance for transport to Bridgeport Hospital.

Initially, among the first two firefighters to enter the house thought that they had been burned on the wrist and knee. However, Tracy said they were checked out and had not suffered any injury, but it underscored how intense the heat was inside the home.

"To blow out those windows, you have to figure the fire was pretty far along," Tracy said.

Westport firefighters also were dispatched to the scene to assist the emergency operations, while other fire crews from Westport and Bridgeport provided backup coverage for the town at Fire Stations 1 and 2.

"We encountered extremely heavy fire condition on arrival," Gomola said in a statement later. "Through a coordinated team effort we were able to knock down the bulk of the fire while initiating an aggressive interior search, with Firefighters Jeff DeNitto, Will Malkin and John Calandriello pushing through extreme heat (moving up to) the second-floor stairwell to gain access to the bedroom where the occupants were located.

"They went above and beyond, with their efforts made possible by Lieutenant Eannotti's Engine 2 crew on fire attack and Lieutenant Corbo leading Company 3 on ventilation."

Fire Marshal William Kessler, and members of his staff, detectives from the Police Department and representatives from the state Fire Marshal's Office stayed at the scene several hours later Monday investigating the cause of the fire..

The last house fire fatality in town was in 2009, when a late-night blaze destroyed two second-story units at the Quincy Condominiums on Hulls Highway. Shirley Smith, 88, was discovered dead in a neighboring unit and it was later determined she died from smoke inhalation.

An occupant of a car that erupted in flames at Tunxis Hill Park on Sept. 6, 2012, later died from his injuries, and an elderly resident of North Benson Road suffered second-degree burns over 30 percent of her body in an incident on March 27, 2013. That call came into 911 as an emergency medical call. She succumbed to her injuries the next month.

On Nov. 11, 2007, an elderly woman whose clothes ignited while she was cooking at her Lota Drive resident died in a fire.

Staff writers Genevieve Reilly and Anne M. Amato contributed to this report.

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