Fatal East Elmhurst Blaze Sparked by Fireplace With No Screen, Sources Say

By Katie Honan and Murray Weiss  on January 2, 2014 1:56pm

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 The deadly fire killed a 7-year-old boy and injured his older brother.
East Elmhurst Fire Sparked By Unattended Fireplace
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EAST ELMHURST — The fire that killed a 7-year-old boy and severely injured his older brother started because there was no screen in front of a fireplace to stop embers that escaped and set a nearby mattress ablaze, according to sources.

The home also didn't have a working fire alarm at the time of the New Year's Day tragedy, an FDNY spokesman said.

Sources said two unidentified teens who were staying at the family's home on 90th Street in East Elmhurst came home early New Year's Day and started a fire in the first floor fireplace — then left the room.

With no screen in front of the hearth in the living room, hot embers shot from the fireplace and lit up a mattress on the floor, sources said.

The fire quickly grew and spread to nearby Christmas decorations, according to the FDNY.

Christopher Miller, 7, was in his second-floor bedroom and became trapped by the flames. He suffered fatal burns on his body, police said.

His 12-year-old brother, identified by a family friend as Mathew, was able to get out of the home, but suffered serious burns to his body. He was taken to Cornell Hospital in Manhattan for treatment.

The boys' father, speaking at Cornell Hospital, said Mathew "is doing better," but added, "it's going to be a long road."

On his Instagram page, the father wrote, "Fire destroyed my family today," and asked followers to keep his family in their prayers.

A memorial with candles, flowers and stuffed animals was set up outside the boarded-up home Thursday morning.

Christopher played in the local Elmjack little league, and posed happily in several photos on his mother's Instagram feed wearing "2014" glasses and posing in front of a fireplace with Christmas stockings hanging above the hearth.

A family friend, who said he works for the victim's father as a club promoter, said Christopher was a "sweet boy."

"He would always want to be next to people," said the friend, who said he's known the family for 10 years.

"He was a very playful kid."

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