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.
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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."
Nigro said he believes the father is at a conference and officials have not yet been able to contact him.
The New York Police Department released the names of the seven siblings later on Saturday. The four male victims were David Sassoon, 12, Yeshua Sassoon, 10, Moshe Sassoon, 8; and Yaakob Sassoon, 5, and the the three girls were Eliane Sassoon, 16, Rivkah Sassoon, 11, and Sara Sassoon, 6.
A firefighter surveys the aftermath of a home fire in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York March 21, 2015. Photo by Reuters
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.
Firefighters received a call at 12:23 A.M. about the blaze 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.
Some very religious Jews refrain from doing work on the Sabbath, including turning on lights or appliances. As a result, some families may leave them on so they are usable without violating prohibitions against doing work.
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.
Neighborhood children look on near the scene of the Brooklyn house fire. Photo by AP
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.
Photo by AP