Mother, Four Children Killed In Staten Island House Fire, Dozen More Escape Blaze

NY Daily News - July 22, 2010

by Sarah Armaghan and Rocco Parascandola

A mother and her four children were killed in a raging pre-dawn house fire on Staten Island Thursday, Fire Commissioner Salavatore Cassano said.

More than a dozen others escaped, some with the help of police officers who were nearby and raced to the scene. But Cassano said the tragedy could have been avoided with smoke detectors.

"We don't see evidence of a smoke detector,'' he said. "We keep trying to remind people that a simple $10 or $15 could have made a difference to save five lives here."

The fire erupted at 4:13 a.m. inside the second-floor of a four-family Port Richmond home, on Nicholas Avenue. It was deemed suspicious because of the large volume of fire, Cassano said, but there was no other immediate indication the fire was intentionally set.

Killed in the fire were a woman identified by neighbors as Lisa Jones, and her four children, including a two-year-old boy whom a firefighter tried in vain to resuscitate. The other children include girls, 7 and 10, and boy, 14. Neighbors described a scene of total panic.

"Two girls came running up to the door, screaming 'There's a fire!' There's a fire!'" said Nick Cotton, 32, who lives across the street. "I opened my door and flames were shooting out through the other upstairs apartment door."

But one officer said she and at least one other cop happened to be nearby and were able to kick down at least two doors.

"We were able to save three families and about four or five kids,'' said the female officer. "We tried to go back in for the last family but the door was already orange.

"The ceiling was caving in - we had to get out of there."

Another neighbor, Christine Valentin, a 57-year-old homemaker, said the victims moved in about six months.

"They were a close family,'' she said. "She was very good with her kids, as far as I could tell. She always took her baby to day care and her kids to school. She'd be outside on the porch playing with her baby all the time.

"He was so cute."