Neighbor Dennis Malfa said Chu was a mathematician, and had lived in the home at 7 Frost Lane since 1967.
Hartsdale Fire Chief Ed Rush said the fire started accidentally while Chu was cooking in the kitchen. He said his body was found there, and that the stove was still on.
“It appears something happened while he was cooking,” Rush said.
His wife, Nan Chu, was in a bedroom when the fire broke out. Officials said the neighbor heard her banging on the bedroom window about 6:05 a.m.
When firefighters arrived, “there was a good amount of fire in the house,” Rush said. The fire was also very smoky. Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to locate the wife, who was unconscious in the bedroom.
Twenty-five firefighters from Hartsdale, Greenville, Fairview and Scarsdale extinguished the two-alarm fire in the raised ranch house in 10 minutes. Elmsford and Eastchester firefighters manned firehouses.
There was quite a bit of fire damage, mainly on the first floor, Rush said.
Malfa described Chu as a “nice old man.” His wife had worked as a chemist. He said they were a quiet couple.
“I never saw them much,” Malfa said.
A senior citizen bus would come and pick them up, he said, and a Meals on Wheels truck drove up with food for them Monday even as firefighters were still at the house.
Another neighbor, George Selkirk, said the Chus had been one of the first families to move to the block. John Chu had a spinal condition and fell down in the neighborhood a couple of times, Selkirk said. But, “his mind was there,” Selkirk said.
The house’s lack of smoke detectors is “a really big problem,” Rush said.
The Hartsdale Fire Department has been promoting smoke detectors among elderly residents and giving free detectors to them, Rush said