St. Paul woman who died in house fire ID’d as 79-year-old homeowner

A 79-year-old who died in a fire in her St. Paul house last week had difficulty walking and getting around, a relative said Monday.

Sylvia C. Ruud was pronounced dead at her home in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood. Her husband, Thomas Ruud, found “an impenetrable smoke-filled area and he could not survive without leaving the house and, unfortunately, Sylvia,” said his brother, Dennis Ruud. He went outside and yelled for help.

Someone heard him and called 911 about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday. Thomas Ruud was burned and taken to the hospital, and has since been released. The couple’s dogs, Doug and Annie, “who were somewhat aged also,” died in the fire, Dennis Ruud said.

The couple lived in their home on Buford Avenue near Grantham Street for many years. Before her retirement, Sylvia Ruud was a longtime employee at Luther Seminary, where she edited newsletters and did office work, her brother-in-law said.

Sylvia Ruud “was very intelligent and beautiful,” Dennis Ruud said. She was interested in philosophy, Carl Yung and religions in general.

She had problems with her knees and back “and she was almost entirely unable to walk,” Dennis Ruud said. She slept on the first floor of the home and firefighters found her deceased in the living room, which is where the fire started.

A preliminary investigation indicated smoking as the cause; Dennis Ruud said Sylvia was a smoker. The home did not have smoke detectors, according to Assistant Fire Chief Jeramiah Melquist.

Sylvia Ruud’s death was the sixth fire fatality in St. Paul this year, including four children who perished after a fire in their home on Jan. 3. An 83-year-old man died after a fire in his home last month. The city usually averages two to three fatal fires per year.

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