After the worst fire to hit the city in seven years tore through a Midwood home on Saturday, March 21, Brooklynites are mourning the loss of seven children and looking for ways to prevent fatal fires in the future and educate families about fire safety.
“This is the largest tragedy by fire that the city has had in seven years,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “It’s a tragedy for this family, it’s a tragedy for this community, [and] it’s a tragedy for our city.”
According to Nigro, the midnight fire started because of a malfunctioning hot plate that was left on overnight, a common practice among Orthodox Jewish families observing Sabbath.
Gayle Sassoon and her eight children – ranging in age from five to 16 — were sleeping inside their home at 3371 Bedford Avenue, a three-story home with only one smoke detector in the basement, according to authorities, when the fire started in the kitchen and made its way to the second floor.
Sassoon and one of her daughters, 15, jumped from a second-floor window and were taken to separate hospitals in critical condition, according to police.
“Investigators found that smoke detectors were not installed in the family’s first or second floors,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “It’s painful to think that if there had been, such a tragedy may had been avoided. If we do anything when we watch and read the news of this horror, I hope that all New Yorkers check their smoke detectors, replace batteries, or install a detector if one is not there already.”
Local pols and elected officials are doing their part to ensure that Brooklyn residents are educated about fire safety.
Borough President Eric Adams held a conference to announce a “borough-wide fire safety education campaign” on Monday, March 23, that will include multilingual outreach and distribution of free smoke detectors.
Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, along with Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James, hosted a community fire safety training program and also gave out free smoke detectors on Tuesday, March 24.
“I am heartbroken for the family that fell victim to the tragic fire in my district,” said Deutsch. “I am grateful to the NYC Fire Department, the NYPD, and the members of Flatbush Hatzolah who responded quickly to combat this horrific fire.”
The FDNY offers fire safety tips on its website, including special tips for observant Jews.
The FDNY’s top safety tips are: Never use an extension cord with large current appliances such as a space heater, air conditioner or refrigerator; never smoke while lying down, especially if drowsy, medicated or if have been drinking; completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding; stay in the kitchen while cooking and wear short or tight fitting sleeves; installing and maintaining a smoke alarm will reduce your chances of dying in a fire in half — install alarms on every floor and in bedrooms for extra protection; plan and practice a fire escape plan; do not attempt to fight a fire yourself; get out and close the door and call 911 from a safe location; Store matches and lighters out of reach and sight of children; and never leave burning candles unattended.