May 9 (UPI) — Six people, most of them children, died early Wednesday when their New York City apartment caught fire, investigators said.
Authorities said the fire started in a fifth-floor apartment in Harlem’s Frederick E. Samuel Houses, killing the family who lived inside. Fire officials said it appears the flames started in the kitchen.
“When the Firefighters arrived, fire met them at the door,” Fire Department of New York Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Wednesday. “Fire was out the windows on two sides of the building.”
Four children and two adults were found in a pair of bedrooms, Nigro added. The children’s ages were 11, 8, 6 and 4. A 45-year-old woman and her 33-year-old stepson were among the dead.
“We’re in the business of saving lives, and in this instance, we were not able to, and it’s very difficult for our members to deal with this loss also,” Nigro said.
Claudette Grant, who lived one floor below, said she heard the commotion and then neighbors warning everyone to leave.
“I heard glass shattering,” neighbor Claudette Grant told the New York Daily News. “Then I heard kids screaming.
“I woke everyone up, I got my baby, and we went outside.”
It’s unclear if the apartment unit was equipped with smoke detectors. Records show the building hasn’t been cited for violations related to smoke detectors or fire escapes, but did have four violations for failing to conduct safety inspections of the elevator.