No Smoke Alarms in New Brighton, MN, House Where Mom, Daughter Died

June 14, 2024
New Brighton firefighters pulled the women from the structure but could not revive them.

Mara H. Gottfried

Pioneer Press


A woman and her adult daughter who died after a house fire in New Brighton were dedicated to helping people, a relative said Thursday.

Maya Davies, 37, was working on her master’s degree in education at Augsburg University and wanted to become an English as a Second Language teacher.

She and her family lived in Germany and Switzerland, beginning when she was a child, and she knew what it was like to try to get through daily life without understanding the language, said her older sister, Heather Amo.

Diana Davies, 78, had worked as a computer programmer, while having a creative and artistic side. She was passionate about alternative medicine and made ointments. “She never heard about people with problems without wanting to do something for them,” Amo said of her mother.

The two, who lived together in Diana’s home, perished Wednesday. The house didn’t have working smoke alarms, according to New Brighton Fire Marshal Kip LaMotte.

Neighbors called 911 just after 2 a.m. Wednesday to report smoke and flames coming from their home in the 1500 block of 21st Avenue Northwest, said the New Brighton Department of Public Safety.

New Brighton firefighters pulled Diana and Maya Davies from the home. First responders provided care to the women and Allina Health Emergency Medical Service took both to HCMC, where they were pronounced dead, LaMotte said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though preliminary information indicates it started accidentally, according to LaMotte.

Authorities are reminding people to test smoke alarms monthly and change batteries twice a year, and Amo had the same request after her family’s tragedy. She doesn’t know the situation with the smoke detectors in her mother’s house, but if they didn’t have batteries, she said she would have gone to the store to get them and make sure her loved ones were safe.

“Smoke alarms save lives — but only if they are properly maintained,” LaMotte said in a statement. “Working smoke alarms give you the critical seconds you need to escape a fire.”

Diana and Maya Davies were sleeping at the time of the fire and didn’t wake up, Amo said. Maya used a CPAP machine and medicine to help her sleep and Diana was hard of hearing, she added.

The fire started in a bedroom being used as an office; neither woman smoked or used candles, Amo said.

Remembrances of a mother and sister

Maya Davies was employed at the Twin Cities German Immersion School in St. Paul, where she was an educational assistant and worked in the after-school program.

She was engaged to be married and had two older sisters.

“Maya was a very loving person,” Amo said. “She really wanted to help people. She was like my mom a lot in that way.”

Diana Davies grew up in the Twin Cities, the daughter of Ida Jerome Davies and Jack Davies. Ida was a psychiatric social worker who was known for changing the way mental illness is treated in Minnesota. Both her parents were involved in social justice issues and helping those in need, which influenced their daughter and grandchildren, Amo said.

In the 1960s, Diana Davies went to college in Berkeley, Calif., where she studied art. Back in Minnesota, she worked at Control Data Corp. in Bloomington, which is where she learned computer programming, Amo said.

She was proud of a book she wrote, “Understanding Sergers,” a specialized kind of sewing machine, which was published in 1993. Diana taught her daughters to sew when they were young, and she was a long-time crochet teacher.

Davies’ husband, Stewart Whiteside, died of cancer in 2006.

Diana Davies was retired, but wanted to stay busy and recently finished a degree in technical writing at the University of Minnesota, which she was excited to put to use, Amo said.

She had four grandchildren, and was a “wonderful, very loving” grandmother, her daughter said.

The deaths of Maya and Diana Davies will bring the number of fire fatalities in the state this year to 37, according to preliminary information from the State Fire Marshal’s office. There were 47 such deaths as of this time last year.

There are a handful of fire deaths each year that happen in homes where there are not working smoke alarms or no smoke alarms at all, said Jen Longaecker, State Fire Marshal’s spokeswoman.


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