NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police and fire officials Saturday morning said candles may have been to blame for a fire that left three small children dead in the Bronx.
The Fire Marshal’s office said a candle in the kitchen likely caused the fire swept through an apartment at 64 W. 165th St. in the Highbridge section of the Bronx just before 8 p.m. Friday.
As 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer reported, Con Edison confirmed that it had shut off power to the apartment due to non-payment. Neighbors said the mother of five who lived in the unit had been using the candles as an alternative to light the apartment.
The power had only been off for a few days, Con Ed told CBS 2.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, there was a massive response from firefighters, but it just was not enough to save the three young lives inside.
Elijah and Jeremiah Artis, ages 5 and 2, respectively, were pronounced dead at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, officials said. A baby, 4-month-old Michael Turner, did not make it out of the building alive.
“They said it was a combination of smoke inhalation and burns” that caused the children’s deaths, said FDNY Assistant Chief Ronald Spadaforda.
The 25-year-old mother, along with the other two children – a 4-year-old girl and a 4-month-old girl – were in stable condition after being treated for smoke inhalation, police said.
Fire officials said the flames were contained mostly to the family’s second-floor apartment. But the fire burned through two stories to the top floor.
A total of about 100 firefighters responded to the scene, and found frightened residents rushing out when they arrived.
“I opened my door and the flames. I was scared,” said building resident Robin Morris. “See that window right there? I had to break the gate to get out, and I was on the fire escape for 20 minutes.”
Firefighters worked hard to help neighbors get to safety.
“Units really had their hands full trying to knock down the fire, as well as taking out occupants from inside the apartments,” Spadafora said.
Neighbor Mattie Ballard, who lives next door to unit 2C where the flames started, recounted the terrifying moments Saturday morning.
“The yelling and screaming – and I didn’t know what it was at first,” Ballard said. “I ran to my door, and the fire was beeping out of the door; of my door.”
Ballard was horrified by the tragic results of the blaze.
“It’s terrible. It’s just terrible,” she said. “I’m sick in here. I feel sick to think about it.”
On Saturday night, a small makeshift memorial was growing below the fire escape where Tashika Turner, 25, tried desperately to save her children from the blaze.
Turner had been sleeping with children in the living room of the second floor apartment when the fire broke out.
“She had to pass the kitchen to get to the apartment door. So she had to go the other direction which is the fire escape,” FDNY spokesman Jack Mooney said.
Turner was able to get her 4-year-old daughter out through a second floor window.
Charlotte Amakye told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez that she caught 4-month-old Michelle as she was being dropped from a fire escape.
“I rushed the baby to the store to get a paper towel and water to wipe the face with the smoke and everything and tried to rub her chest like that. All of a sudden she cough and start throwing up. That’s when I noticed she was still alive,” Amakye said.
The smoke was too intense for Turner to head back inside for her three sons. As this family attempts to recover, the pain from their loss is only just the beginning.
“There’s no words. You can’t describe that pain, that feeling,” neighbor Valerie Frazier said.
Friends and family have started raising money to cover funeral costs and to help the family get back on their feet.
This was the third accidental fire in as many weeks in the Tri-State Area that claimed the lives of young children.
Jennifer McCusker, 41, was killed in the fire at 16 Hollywood Dr. in Shirley, Long Island, along with son Aidan Tarbell, 7, and twins Ava Jane Mistretta and Brendan Mistretta, both 2. The fire broke out around 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11.
And last weekend, Pizari Daniel-Mohan, 2 – who was visiting with his mother from Barbados — was killed in a fire in Elmsford, Westchester County when flames trapped him in the attic. It took firefighters more than 12 hours to find his body.
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