AUBURN — Residents of a new housing development on Auburn’s west side were still trying to recover Sunday in the aftermath of a fire that claimed the lives of their friend and neighbor, Rachel Harris-Curione, and her goddaughter, Averyana Dale.

“She was definitely one of a kind,” said Loni Silverberg, tears trailing down her face, as she looked across Greenview Circle at unit 26, Harris-Curione’s home. “We were best friends and we went to OCC together. I would go over to her house almost every morning and have coffee with her. The last time I saw her she was pulling out of her driveway and she stuck her tongue out at me, she was that kind of person.”

Silverberg said she was stunned Saturday night when she got a call from a friend telling her Harris-Curione’s house was on fire.

“I was on my way home and I just went straight to the hospital,” Silverberg said. “The whole way there, I just couldn’t think.”

Harris-Curione, 38, and Dale, 2, were pronounced dead at Auburn Community Hospital. The Auburn Police Department said autopsies are scheduled to determine the cause of their deaths.

Auburn Fire Department Assistant Chief Al Mendillo said when firefighters arrived at the home at approximately 11:12 p.m. Saturday, the two were found unresponsive in the living room about 20 feet from the kitchen where a small fire was burning.

The responding crew pulled them from the house and attempted to administer medical aid, but they were unable to get responses from the victims.

“The mood’s really down over here right now,” the chief said from the fire station. “Some of the newer recruits were really affected by it.”

He said a neighbor that called in the emergency reported hearing smoke alarms and smelling smoke and natural gas. Using sensors, Mendillo said inspectors were unable to find any traces of gas after the blaze was extinguished.

Mendillo said the Auburn police and fire departments are conducting a joint investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

Silverberg said  Harris-Curione, who was a full-time nursing student, would frequently babysit her goddaughter and enjoyed spending time with her 18-year-old son.

“Her son was her pride and joy,” she said. “She would go off and spend the day with her son all the time and you would always see her and Averyana over there playing together. She was just such a caring person.”

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