93-year-old woman killed in Sterling Heights house fire

An elderly woman was killed early Tuesday morning in Sterling Heights when her home caught fire despite crews best efforts to save her.

Firefighters were called to a fire in the 42800 block Hanks Lane, near the intersection of 19 Mile and Mound Road, around 4:45 Tuesday morning.

Someone passing by the home called flames and called 911. 

The woman, who was 93 years old, was pulled from the home and rushed to the hospital. According to fire investigators and police, the woman died at the hospital.

Neighbors identify the woman as Marcella Nowak and say she lived alone on Hanks Lane.

"Mrs. Nowak has been there since the 60s," said neighbor Barbara Prevost. "She fed the deer who lived in the forest (behind her house) and she fed the wild animals and she had cats."

Prevost said Nowak would treat kids who stayed at an in-home daycare nearby like her own grandkids.

"She would come over and buy the daycare kids gifts, come and chat with them and hug them and they called her grandmother," she said.

Nowak lived alone inside the home and assistant fire chief Ed Miller said the fire was burning for a while before it was noticed by drivers from 19 Mile and Mound.

"The fire was actually going fairly well before it was noticed," Miller said."The fire was going pretty well for a while before it was actually noticed. (It was going) through the roof and there was a lot of stuff in the house that added to the fire. There was a lot of damage."

Authorities believe she was trying to escape the fire before she was overcome. Firefighters were able to pull Nowak from her burning house, give her CPR, and transfer her to Troy Beaumont hospital. Unfortunately, she died at the hospital. 

Miller said the cause of the fire is still under investigation but say they believe it was an unattended cooking accident.

"My kids used to play in the backyard with her kids. It's not good.  She was a very nice person," Her husband passed away quite a few years ago. So we would come chit chat every time she comes out to get the  mail or take the garbage out. 

Fire officials at the scene say the home is a total loss. 

Two cats also died in the fire.