By Gord Wainman of The Free Press

 Smoke billows from a Pondview Road home where a London woman lost her life Sunday morning. A firefighter, wearing a mask, prepares to enter the house. Audrey McCallum’s body was found in the bedroom.

Smoke billows from a Pondview Road home where a London woman lost her life Sunday morning. A firefighter, wearing a mask, prepares to enter the house. Audrey McCallum’s body was found in the bedroom.

A London spinster died about dawn Sunday in a long-smouldering fire in her 1134 Pondview Rd., home.

It was the first serious call on the dial 911 emergency telephone system which officials said had been operating like clockwork since it began eight hours earlier.

But the call came too late to save Audrey McCallum, 60, who had lived alone with cats in the ranch-style home for about 15 years.

“I’m sure she’s in there,” said next-door neighbor Doug Smith as firemen searched feverishly for the woman in the intense heat and smoke inside the home. “She always tells us when she going out and asks us to look after her cats.”

“Damn. . . damn,” he cursed when a fireman called from inside that he’d found the woman’s body huddled in the corner of her bedroom.

The Smiths were awakened just before 8 a.m., by another neighbor, Walter Lunick, who spotted smoke billowing out of the chimney of the McCallum home.

“I hammered on the Smith’s door and yelled for them to call 911,” the new emergency telephone number to police and fire dispatchers.

Doris Smith dialed the number as her husband rushed out of the house shirtless to assist Mr. Lunick at the burning home.

“I dialed . . . a voice came on . . . I said there was a fire . . . the man said ‘I’ll connect you to the fire dispatcher,’ and that was it,” said Mrs. Smith.

“I guess this was the first serious emergency call on the new system,” said police Sgt. John Wood. “I got the address . . . I knew it was a fire . . . I put it over to fire dispatcher Mike Doan then dispatched three police cars . . . “

Three fire companies responded to the alarm, and Thames Valley Ambulance dispatched an ambulance. The emergency headquarters is at the new police station at Dundas and Adelaide Streets.

Walter Lunick failed in attempt to enter house.

Walter Lunick failed in attempt to enter house.

“I spotted the smoke about five minutes to eight as I was about to take my sister to the airport,” said Mr. Lunick who lives at 1139 Pondview Rd. Police and fire dispatchers recorded the call had been received at 7:53 a.m.

As the emergency machinery was set in motion, Mr. Lunick and Mr. Smith rushed to the McCallum home.

“I put my hand on the parlor window, and was it hot,” said Mr. Lunick. “Doug (Smith) and I

pushed the car out of the garage because we were worried about the oil tank (for the furnace) exploding.”

“I smashed in the door to the house leading from the garage . . . the smoke was intense and hot . . . I just got in a few feet and I couldn’t breathe.”

Constable Herb Frew arrived within minutes, said Mr. Lunick, “and he smashed in the front door but was also driven back.”

Firemen then arrived and several with oxygen masks entered the bedroom through a window, but the smoke was so thick they couldn’t see anything.

Then, firefighter Wayne Littleton crashed through the bedroom floor to the basement landing on his back.

“I only got scrapes and bruises, but the floor just gave way,” he said.

District Chief Frank Fieldhouse said the floor joints under four of the rooms had burned through. One fireman said some of the burned wood was “just like powder”.

One of Miss McCallum’s cats was found almost immediately, then two smouldering mattresses were thrown into the backyard.

As the smoke started to clear, the body of Miss McCallum was found.

Cause of the fire was still being investigated today but Coroner Dr. Bev Robinson said he doubts if there will be an inquest.