Fire ripped through a three-story Staten Island house on Friday morning, killing a 5-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy and injuring four of their siblings, neighbors and authorities said.
Two children in the family — boys, ages 5 and 10 — were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Two older children, a boy, 12, and a girl, 14, suffered smoke inhalation and were expected to survive.
The mother of the children, who was not home at the time of the fire, was rushed to the hospital in a state of shock, but was in stable condition, said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.
“It’s an incredible tragedy, and we feel it as New Yorkers,” said Kavanagh. “Our [ FDNY] members, of course, are parents themselves. This is right before Christmas. It’s tough for all of us.”
A firefighter was also hospitalized with minor injuries.
The blaze erupted around 10:20 a.m. in a house on Van Duzer St. near Vanderbilt Ave. in Grymes Hill.
“We heard the thumping and we saw real big flames coming out the windows,” said Jessica Little, a next-door neighbor.
An across-the-street neighbor, Adam Alv, 26, said his roommate heard the children inside the house screaming.
Firefighters responded to a 911 call and were at the scene in three minutes, the Fire Department said.
“They immediately started an aggressive interior attack on the fire,” said FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens. “The entire second floor was engulfed in flames.
“Once they started to move in the hose line, they quickly extinguished the fire. And we found the victims inside all unconscious and needing to be removed.”
Firefighters brought the injured children to the street and performed CPR and other measures to save their lives until EMTs arrived and administered advanced care, Hodgens said.
“All members operated under very intense conditions to try to save these lives,” said Hodgens. In all, 60 firefighters responded to the scene.
“They were a big family, a very respected family. The kids were very happy and this is very tragic,” said neighbor and friend who gave his name as Jorge Luis, 53.
“As for character, she was top-notch,” Luis said of the mother. “The kids would always give me a warm welcome, gleefully and happily say hi.”
”I’m so saddened for them. That this happened a day before Christmas Eve is awful,” Luis said.
Little said her father frequented the family’s house to offer food to the children. “If we had heard it sooner, we could have helped them,” Little said.
“I can’t even imagine what she is going through,” said another next-door neighbor who wished to remain anonymous. “They were quiet and the kids were good.”
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
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