NEW YORK (AP) — A fire that tore through a home in a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood, leaving seven children dead and two other people in critical condition, may have been caused by a malfunctioning hot plate left on for the Sabbath, the city’s fire commissioner said Saturday.
Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the deceased range in age from 5 to 15 years old. He said a woman and teenager survived after jumping from the second floor.
The woman is believed to be the mother of all eight children, Nigro said.
“This is the largest tragedy by fire that this city has had in seven years,” Nigro said. “It’s a tragedy for this family, it’s a tragedy for this community, it’s a tragedy for the city.”
The names of the deceased were not released. Nigro said he believes the father is at a conference and officials have not yet been able to contact him.
Fire investigators found a smoke detector in the basement of the home, but so far none have been found elsewhere in the house, Nigro said.
“There was no evidence of smoke detectors on either the first or the second floor that may have alerted this family to the fire,” he said.
The last similar residential blaze happened in 2007, when eight children and an adult were killed in a fire in a 100-year-old building in the Bronx where several African immigrant families lived. Fire officials said an overheated space heater cord sparked that blaze.
Firefighters received Saturday’s call at 12:23 a.m. for the fire at the single-family home in Midwood, a leafy section of Brooklyn known for its low crime and large Orthodox Jewish population. Fire department spokesman Jim Long said more than 100 firefighters responded and brought the blaze under control at around 1:30 a.m.
Many religious Jews do not use electricity on the Sabbath, along with refraining from work and observing other prohibitions meant to keep the day holy. As a result, some families may leave them on so they are usable without violating any religious laws or traditions.
Neighbor Nate Weber told the New York Post that he saw children being wheeled away on stretchers.
“I just turned away. I didn’t even want to look,” he said.
Weber told the New York Daily News he heard the children’s mother yelling for someone to rescue her children after she jumped from a window.
“I heard a woman yelling: ‘My kids are in there. Get them out! Get them out!'” he told the Post.
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