NEW YORK, NY—The cause of New York City’s deadliest fire in 8 years proved to be a hotplate in the kitchen. A mother and her eight children slept upstairs when the device malfunctioned, starting a fire that quickly moved up the stairs and filled the home with thick smoke.
The mother and her 15-year-old daughter jumped from second floor windows and are currently in critical condition. All seven other children died.
Investigators found a smoke detector in the basement of the home at 3371 Bedford Avenue, near Avenue L, but had not found any on the first floor, where the fire started, or the second, where the family slept. They were still searching the debris.
Just after midnight, flames began to fly off the large hot plate on a first-floor kitchen counter, near the back of the home in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, a neighborhood with many large Orthodox Jewish families. On the Sabbath, it would have been one of the few electrical appliances in the neighborhood that were flipped on.
For some time, the fire smoldered in the kitchen unnoticed, fire officials believe. But as soon as the blaze reached the stairwell, it shot upstairs, feeding off wood inside the home, the authorities said.
The stairwell became a pillar of flames. Four children in two bedrooms in the back of the house were confined to their rooms as thick smoke filled the home. Three more children were stuck in a front bedroom.
Firefighters fought through the flames and found the children in their bedrooms and grabbed them, passing them through windows to colleagues who were on ladders and on a porch behind the house.
“They took them out every which way,” said James Long, a fire department spokesman.
The firefighters started resuscitation efforts as they rushed the children, some of them badly burned, to waiting ambulances. They were taken to various hospitals but seven could not be saved.
For updates and more details see http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/nyregion/7-children-die-in-brooklyn-fire.html.