East Flatbush man killed in apartment blaze

Newsday - December 12, 2004

by DAN BELL AND WIL CRUZ

A man was killed in his East Flatbush apartment yesterday despite firefighters' attempts to rescue him, officials and neighbors said.

Conrad Walton, 79, was in his first-floor apartment at 2709 Clarendon Rd. near East 28th Street around 10 a.m. when the fire began, officials said. Walton, whom neighbors called Sonny, was apparently trapped.

Melvin Phillips, 45, who lives on the second-floor of the four-story building, said about six firefighters tried to reach Walton through the apartment's front door and a window.

"They had to go in through the window because they couldn't get the door down in time," said Phillips, who said he just had just returned home from his job.

"They had to pull him out of the window here," he added, pointing toward the building. "His body was badly burned; he was just moaning."

Walton, who was found in a hallway near the kitchen, was ferried on a stretcher to a fire truck where, Phillips said, emergency workers performed CPR.

A few minutes later, Walton was pronounced dead, a fire official said.

The blaze appeared accidental, officials said. Neighbors said firefighters believed the fire started because something was left on the stove, but the department could not confirm that account.

The spokesman said the fire, which was considered under control at 10:36 a.m., was under investigation.

It took 12 fire units and 60 firefighters to put out the blaze, which was confined to Walton's apartment. One firefighter and another person were not seriously injured, the spokesman said.

Walton, who lived with his wife, Mae, had been a fixture in the community since 1963, neighbors said. The retired postal worker and World War II veteran and his wife, a retired data processor for IBM, would go fishing with friends, give neighbors advice or simply keep apartment keys for people in cases of emergency.

"She's a mother to me, a grandmother," Melvin Phillips' wife, Sherry Campbell, 49, a supervisor at an immigration agency, said of Mae.

About 1:15 p.m. yesterday, Mae Walton, who had been running errands, arrived at the building. After Phillips, Campbell and police took her into a hallway to tell her what had happened, she came outside and bustled through some of the belongings outside her front window, seemingly shocked.

"There are my boots," Walton said, slumped against a chain-link fence. "There are my new boots."

Campbell said Mae Walton, who requested that reporters not ask her questions, made her husband oatmeal and tea yesterday morning, and told him she was going out to buy him leather house slippers.

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