Fire Fighter Fred Radley prepares to leave the balcony of a fire-damaged apartment at 261 Platt's Lave after a blaze last night in which am elderly woman was killed.

Fire Fighter Fred Radley prepares to leave the balcony of a fire-damaged apartment at 261 Platt’s Lave after a blaze last night in which am elderly woman was killed.
See Reeve | The London Free Press

Friends said the Platt’s Lane resident was blind and barely mobile By April Kemick, Free Press reporter London Free Press, Feb. 4, 2006

An elderly woman is dead after a fire ripped through her ground-floor apartment in west London last night.

London police and firefighters wouldn’t identify the victim of the blaze at 261 Platt’s Lane, but friends huddled outside said it was Ruby Yahnke, an elderly woman who was blind and barely mobile.

“The poor lady–she couldn’t see anything and she could hardly walk,” said an emotional Dianne Edwards, who visited the senior twice a day to help care for her dog.

“She was a wonderful woman.  I just saw her today and everything was fine.  Now this.”, Edward said.

The fire, which started shortly after 8:30 pm, charred Yahnke’s first-floor apartment and sent smoke billowing out her windows, smashed by firefighters trying to contain the blaze.

Though Yahnke herself did not escape the fire, her dog, a small Shih Tzu named Molly, was brought out by firefighters and handed to Edwards.

“She’s ok, just a little black,” Edwards said of the dog she walked twice a day.  “She’s gonna miss her mom.”

Dozens of residents of the five-storey building were forced to evacuate because of heavy smoke.

They huddled outside and in a nearby building for nearly two hours as police and firefighters investigated.

“The hallways and stairwells were full of smoke and it smelled really strong,” said Ramsey Shuck, who lives on the third floor.  “Smoke was just billowing out of the first-floor apartment”, he said.

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Kitterman said last night it was unclear how much damage the building sustained in the blaze.

He did say the first-floor apartment where the fire originated received “severe” damage.

Kitterman didn’t know what sparked the fatal blaze, but neighbours said Yahnke was a smoker.

“It’s just so sad,” Edwards said.  “She’s a beautiful person.”