OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Investigators are working to determine what caused a fire that killed a 62-year-old grandmother Tuesday afternoon.

Sgt. Joel Davis of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said firefighters from Old Orchard Beach found the body of Patricia Noel in a first-floor bedroom of her home at 44 Wesley Ave.

Noel lived in the two-story house with her son and her grandson, who were not at home when the fire broke out, said Davis.

When asked if the fire appeared to be suspicious, Davis said, “Nothing jumps out at us.”

Asked if Noel smoked cigarettes, Davis said she was a smoker.

Noel worked as a second-shift medical records processor in Maine Medical Center’s Health Information Department, said John Lamb, a spokesman for the hospital in Portland.

Firefighters from Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough arrived at the home around 2 p.m. after getting a phone call from a neighbor, Caleigh Mills of 40 Wesley Ave.

When they arrived, firefighters encountered smoke and fire coming from the bedroom area, said Old Orchard Beach Fire Chief John Glass.

Glass said that at the time of the emergency call, firefighters didn’t know that someone was in the home.

“It was a quick knockdown,” said Glass, with most of the fire and smoke damage confined to the bedroom.

After putting the fire out, firefighters found Noel’s body.

Mills, who lives across the street, sat on the steps outside her home after the fire, crying and blaming herself.

“I was the one who called it in,” she said. “I wish I had called sooner. It might have saved her life.”

Mills, 21, said she and a friend were leaving to go grocery shopping when they heard smoke detectors beeping at Noel’s house.

She thought nothing of it because there was no evidence of smoke or fire and there didn’t appear to be anyone at Noel’s home, she said.

“I should have known something wasn’t right,” Mills said.

Glass, the fire chief, said smoke detectors go off all the time because of dead batteries or electrical malfunctions.

When Mills returned from the store, she said, she saw smoke coming from a window of Noel’s home. She called the fire department.

Mills said she got to know Noel because of her affinity for cats. Noel, who had at least one cat, would take care of Mills’ parents’ cats. Her parents have since moved out.

“She was a really nice lady,” Mills said. “Whenever we saw each other, we’d wave.”

Davis, of the Fire Marshal’s Office, said one cat died in the fire.

The fire occurred in a tightly developed neighborhood with narrow streets.

Rhonda Evangelista, whose home is only about 10 feet from Noel’s, was terrified that the fire might spread to her home and others in the neighborhood. All she could do was watch as firefighters entered the home.

“It was scary and it was sad, but the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department was amazing,” Evangelista said.

No other homes were damaged.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office will try to determine how Noel died.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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