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Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, near the single-family house where seven children died. Credit Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, near the single-family house where seven children died. Credit Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Seven children from the same family — ages 5 to 15 — died early Saturday in a fire in Brooklyn that the authorities said was caused by a malfunctioning hot plate.

The blaze was reported just before 12:30 a.m. at a single-family house on Bedford Avenue in the Midwood neighborhood, officials said.

At a news conference at the scene shortly after 8 a.m., Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, said a hot plate left on a counter on the first floor started the fire that raced up the stairs to the second floor, where nine family members were in bed.

Three girls, ages 8, 12, 15, and four boys, ages 5, 6, 7 and 11, were all killed, the police said.

The mother jumped out a front window; a daughter went out a side window. They both had burns and smoke inhalation.

“This is the largest tragedy by fire that this city has had in seven years,” Mr. Nigro said. “It’s a tragedy for this family, it’s a tragedy for this community, it’s a tragedy for the city.”

Fire investigators found a smoke detector in the basement of the home of the Orthdox Jewish family, but so far none on the first or second floors. They are still looking through the rubble.

“There was no evidence of smoke detectors on either the first or the second floor that may have alerted this family to the fire,” Mr. Nigro said.

The children slept in five bedrooms in the rear of the house, separated from the kitchen by an open stairwell that the fire raced up, Mr. Nigro said. The two survivors were closest to the front of the home.

Firefighters were on scene in three and a half minutes, officials said.

“Firefighters forced their way in, extinguished fire on the first floor, which had started in the kitchen,” he said, “then pushed upstairs and found the children in their bedrooms.”

The children’s father is away at a conference and has been difficult to reach, he said.

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

He added that the hot plate was likely used because it was a way to keep food warm on the Jewish Sabbath without turning on the stove.

Forbidden from lighting fires during the Sabbath, many Orthodox Jewish families keep food warm by lighting a burner on a stove before the Sabbath.

The mother was taken to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, which has a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to provide care to patients with smoke inhalation.

The eighth child was taken to Staten Island University Hospital. Both are in critical condition, officials said.

A large, square, charred hole gaped from the front of the light-colored house at 3371 Bedford Ave. with a red roof on asnow-frosted block at first light Saturday morning. Three fire engines flashed their lights on the block, which had been closed by police.

More than 100 firefighters were on the scene of the 2-alarm fire, officials said.

A man who lives next door to the burned house and declined to give his name said the family was large and loving — some of the children shoveled snow for neighbors on Friday.

“They’re very good people, the kids were always helping people,” he said.

The family had rented the home for about two years, he said.

He said he woke up around 1 a.m. to sirens and screams.

“I don’t get it,” he said, “I don’t understand it.”

In March 2007, nine children and a woman were killed in a fire in the Bronx, all of them part of an extended family of immigrants from Mali. The blaze started in a cord attached to a space heater in a 100-year-old wooden building.

NY Times

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