Couple and five young daughters killed in Brooklyn apartment fire

Monday, June 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A couple and their five daughters died in an apartment fire in a tragedy authorities said could have been avoided if someone had called 911 earlier.

The fire started just after 2:30 p.m. Sunday in a three-story building in the Brooklyn borough's Bay Ridge neighborhood. It broke out in a second-floor apartment kitchen as a woman tried to heat a pan of oil.

The woman tried to put the fire out but couldn't, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. She fled her apartment, leaving a door open, and the flames spread to the rest of the second floor and the third floor, the mayor said.

Police said no charges were expected against the woman. But Bloomberg said the tragedy might have been prevented if she had called 911 immediately.

``This is a fire that could have been prevented much earlier,'' he said.

The children who died ranged in age from 9 months to 13 years, fire department spokesman Joseph Cestari said.

The victims were not immediately identified and no cause for the blaze had been cited.

A dozen firefighters, three police officers, one emergency services worker and a fire patrol officer sustained minor injuries, Cestari said.

Freddy Freda, 62, who lives across the street, said he called the fire department after noticing smoke puffing from a third-floor apartment window. But right after he hung up the telephone, he saw that the fire ``was out of control,'' he said.

``It really was bad, terrible, burning like hell,'' he said.

By Sunday evening, he said, the windows were blackened and debris littered the ground in front of the building.

Freda said he didn't know the family that lived in the apartment. He said he had only occasionally seen a small girl playing in the window.

More than 150 firefighters took on the blaze, which caused the roof to collapse.