Mon, Mar 23, 2015 - Page 7 News List

NYC Orthodox community stunned by deadly blaze

AP, NEW YORK

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, on Saturday leaves a house that caught fire in the Midwood neighborhood in Brooklyn earlier in the day, killing seven children in the family that lived there.

Photo: AFP

The tight-knit Orthodox Jewish New York City community where seven siblings perished in a deadly Sabbath fire was still reeling yesterday as funeral services for the children were being prepared.

“I call this not a tragedy, but an absolute disaster,” said state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn were the fire broke out early on Saturday.

The blaze killed three girls and four boys ages five to 16, leaving their mother and another child critically injured.

Fire officials said the flames would have prevented the mother, who escaped out a window, from trying to rescue her children.

Funeral plans were tentatively set for late yesterday afternoon.

Investigators believe a hot plate left on a kitchen counter set off the blaze that sent flames up the stairs, trapping the children in their second-floor bedrooms as they slept. Many religious Jews who observe the Sabbath refrain from working, in all forms, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday — including using electricity.

As a result, some families may leave appliances on so they are usable without violating any religious laws or traditions.

Authorities say their father was at a nearby conference at the time of the fire. Neither his name nor those of the survivors were released.

New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called it the city’s worst fatal fire in recent memory and Mayor Bill de Blasio, after touring the charred home, called the deadly blaze a tragedy for the family, the community and for the city.

Karen Rosenblatt, who lives nearby, said she called the emergency dispatcher after being awoken by her husband, Andrew, when he saw flames and smoke bellowing from the home.

The husband said also he heard “what seemed like a young girl scream, ‘Help me! Help me!’”

Firefighters arrived less than four minutes after the emergency call to find the mother, badly burned and distraught, outside and pleading for help.

When they broke in the door, firefighters encountered a raging fire that had already spread through the kitchen, dining room, common hall, stairway leading upstairs and the rear bedrooms.

“It’s difficult to find one child in a room during a search,” Nigro said. “To find a houseful of seven children that can’t be revived ...”

Fire investigators found a smoke detector in the basement of the home, but none were found elsewhere in the house, Nigro said.

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