NY Times - March 04, 2019by Ashley Southall and Sean Piccoli
The sound of breaking glass could be heard early on Sunday morning as boys jumped from the windows of a Queens home that had become engulfed in flames as a result of a fire the authorities said was caused by a burning candle.
The family had not been alerted to the fire because the smoke detector in the two-story home in the quiet Springfield Gardens neighborhood did not function, fire officials said.
One of the children, 8-year-old Tighani Jones — “the baby,” as he was known — did not survive the 2:30 a.m. blaze that also injured six other people, the police said.
Two older boys were able to jump to safety through second-floor windows, neighbors said.
“I took my coat off, my sweater, and wrapped him up,” a neighbor, Dwayne Sundar, said of a boy he said was between 10 and 12 years old.
That child told him there was another boy still inside the house.
“I guess he tried to save his brother,” Mr. Sundar said, “but he couldn’t.”
Neighbors described a frantic scene of screaming, shattering glass and fleeing boys. Cellphone video showed black smoke billowing into the night air as a man paced in the street, yelling, “Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!” into a cellphone. A woman screamed and a moment later, bright flames erupted from the side of the house.
“We tried our best, we just couldn’t get to him — too much fire,” the battalion chief, Patrick Ginty, told 1010 WINS at the scene. “The second floor was fully involved with fire when we showed up, it was coming out every window.”
The police said a 12-year-old boy cut his wrist escaping through a window on the second floor, where the fire started. He and the five other survivors were taken to Long Island Jewish Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation, according to the police.
City fire marshals declared the fire an accident caused by a candle. Jim Long, a department spokesman, said the candle and Tighani were found upstairs.
Candles are a leading cause of fires in New York City, and two-thirds of the deadly fires here involve smoke alarms that don’t work, Mr. Long said. “It’s a preventable fire that gets a head-start, gets advanced and takes a life,” he said.
Tyree Carrow, who shared the cellphone video with The New York Times, said he was about to go to sleep when he heard screams and then the sound of glass breaking from across the street. Mr. Carrow, 23, said he and his mother went to the front door thinking, “Someone’s arguing, having a fight outside.”
“So then we open up the front door and we just see flames coming out of the house — a bunch of smoke, flames, and then just big booms and glass falling, and people screaming,” he said.
Mr. Carrow said he saw about a half-dozen people, adults and children, coming out of the burning house.
Sixty firefighters responded, and it took them nearly an hour to bring the blaze under control, according to the Fire Department.
The tragedy recalled a Bronx fire in 2016 that killed two baby sisters left alone with burning incense while their mother did laundry. The Fire Department has said a third of all candle fires begin when the flames are left unattended; officials posted a video on Twitter on Sunday reminding people how to use candles safely.
Tighani’s house was still standing on Sunday afternoon, when two contractors arrived with sheets of plywood and nail guns to board up the burned-out upstairs windows.
From the outside, the first floor looked almost untouched by the fire. But a vacate order was duct-taped to the front door glass, and ashy debris sat in piles below the second story’s side windows, which were ringed by scorch marks and remnants of exterior siding that hung in melted strips.
The Department of Buildings said it had never received a complaint about the house. But after the fire, city building inspectors discovered the cellar of the house had been illegally converted to an apartment. The inspectors issued violations to the owner and ordered the property vacated, according to the buildings agency.
Mr. Sundar, 40, said that on Sunday morning he had come outside after hearing the commotion, and saw smoke pouring from the house next door. Mr. Sundar said he called 911 and then saw two boys, who he believed to be Tighani’s brothers, flee the house by jumping from the second floor.
The first boy out was a teenager who struggled to wedge himself through an upstairs window above the house’s side driveway. Mr. Sundar said he climbed onto the roof of a parked vehicle to reach up and help the boy down.
“I was too short, and he’s stuck — and the window can’t open all the way so he’s stuck, half of his body out,” Mr. Sundar said. “But the smoke was so thick after that I can’t see, and he can’t see either.”
That was when the teenager jumped through the window and fell to the curb below, and walked bleeding from his injuries to sit on a stoop across the street, Mr. Sundar said.
Patches of blood and bloody footprints were still visible on the walkway hours later.
Mr. Sundar said he stepped into the house to try to help but was driven back by flames. He said firefighters arrived within minutes but the blaze “spread so fast there was nothing they could do.”
“By the time the truck rolled up and they pulled out the hose the house was already engulfed,” he said.