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Wilson Street fire 0:49

Neighbours are concerned and anxious about the fate of the "lovely lady" who lived in a house destroyed in an explosion and fire Monday.

As fire marshal investigators begin pulling away the rubble of the home, the lone resident, identified by a neighbour as Lynn Kingsbury – is still considered missing, Hamilton police said.

Some neighbours still hope that she had left the home,on Wilson Street at Victoria Street, shortly before it burst into flames and later collapsed.

“She’s a lovely lady,” said Steve Brady, who lives on Victoria Street North, kitty corner to the home Kingsbury lived in. “My daughter knows her because she has a couple little dogs and we have a dog, and they’d meet in the park sometimes and talk.”

Around 12:30 p.m. Monday, neighbours heard loud bangs from the home, and some saw the windows of the brick on Wilson Street at Victoria, across from Jack. C. Beemer Park, burst onto the street and then the fire broke out. The house collapsed about 30 minutes after firefighters arrived, said Hamilton Fire platoon chief Brian Stark.

“The fire would not go out for some reason,” Brady said, who heard the explosion from his home. “[Firefighters] kept putting water on it, and then the house just collapsed. We saw the cat run out, but we didn’t see the dogs or her.”

Debra Galvin, whose home shares a back alley way with the collapsed house, said Kingsbury is in her 60s and had been renting the home for about a year and a half. As far as she knew, Kingsbury was currently unemployed.

“Every time I went by and she was sitting out in front, I would pet her cats. She used to leash the cats and they’d be sitting outside,” Galvin said. “She was really friendly, really nice.”

Wilson street house cat

The cat that was rescued from the fire scene is at the Millen Road Animal Hospitalin Stoney Creek. Neighbour Debra Galvin said the cat belonged to the tenant and she'd often pet it outside. (Millen Road Animal Hospital)

Brady and Galvin, watched in that back alley as the Ontario Fire Marshal investigators examined the remains and an excavator scooped away the rubble and burnt contents of the home.

“She does have a friend who stays with her from time to time,” Galvin said. “I was hoping she went to visit her. Just jumped in the car and left the cat.”

The Ontario Fire Marshal continued its investigation Tuesday.

“We’re systematically taking the house apart with the use of heavy equipment so its safe to go inside and continue the investigation,” said Richard Derstroff, fire investigator with the OFM. “And hopefully recover a person that we believe might be in the residence.”

Derstroff said the excavator started clearing the back first because the house collapsed in that direction. The natural gas line up to the house was shut off for the investigation, he said.

The OMF still doesn’t know the cause of the explosion or the fire, but Derstroff said he’s looking into a few possibilities.

Wilson street fire

The rear of the Wilson Street home that went up in flames and collapsed. The OMF continued investigating Tuesday. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

“We’ve eliminated natural gas up to the house, so now we have some natural gas appliances inside the house to be looked at,” he said. “But we eliminated that there was a leak up to the exterior.”

It might take two to three days “at least” of clearing before any investigators can get inside the home, Derstroff said.

“It's always done very slow and methodical and systematically and we want to try to take it apart piece by piece and document everything as we go,” he said.

When inside, investigators will look at what burnt and fire patterns to help determine the cause and how the fire progressed.

In the meantime, passersby stop and stare in disbelief at what’s left of the home while neighbours Brady and Galvin anxiously wait to find out what happened to Kingsbury.

“She was so happy and couldn’t wait for Christmas,” Brady said. “It’s a shame unfortunately.”