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7 Children — All Siblings — Killed in Fire Caused by Hot Plate

By  Michael P. Ventura Murray Weiss and Katie Honan | March 21, 2015 10:30am | Updated on March 21, 2015 2:23pm

A fire at 3371 Bedford Ave. killed 7 children.  DNAinfo/Katie Honan

MIDWOOD — Seven children between the ages of 5 and 15 died early Saturday morning when a fire caused by a hot plate ripped through their home, police and fire officials said.

The siblings — three girls, Elaine, 16, Rivkah, 11, Sara, 8 and four boys, David, 12, Yeshua, 10, Moshe, 8, and Yaakob, 5, — were all from the same Orthodox Jewish family of Gabriel and Gayle Sassoon, officials said.

The fire at 3371 Bedford Ave., which authorities were alerted to just before 12:30 a.m., was caused by a hot plate in the kitchen that the family had left on to keep food warm during Shabbos, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Many Orthodox Jewish families are prohibited by religious restrictions from turning on various devices during the Sabbath.

It wasn't immediately clear if the hot plate itself malfunctioned or ignited something near it, Nigro said.

The fire spread from the kitchen up the stairs to where the family was sleeping.

The children's mother, Gayle, 45, and a daughter, 14, jumped out a window at the rear of the home's second floor, Nigro said.

The mother managed to get across the street and banged on neighbors' doors to get help before she collapsed, sources said.  She was taken to Jacobi Hospital in The Bronx, where she was put in a hyperbaric chamber, in critical condition, sources and officials said.

"I think she valiantly tried, although she was very badly burned, to get out and get help for her children," Nigro said. "Very, very brave.”

There were four bedrooms on the second floor, he added.  Children were found in three of them.

“From the conditions on arrival I would say it was impossible for them to have gotten out of the room and past — the fire came up the stairs," Nigro said. "The mother would have had to go into the fire to get into the back bedrooms."

The surviving daughter was taken to Staten Island University Hospital, also in critical condition.

The family's father is away at a conference, sources said. Authorities were having a difficult time reaching him as he might have his cell phone off for the Sabbath, sources said.

"This is an unbelievable tragedy," said Mayor Bill de Blasio after he and Nigro toured the scene Saturday afternoon. “It was unimaginable what you see in there. You can literally see what was a home for a large strong family, and now it is wiped out. Every room empty and burned and charred."

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks with firefighters at the scene of the deadly fire. DNAinfo/Katie Honan.

There were no working smoke alarms on the first and second floors of the house, Nigro said, but there was one in the basement.

Nigro said it wasn't clear how much time had passed from when the fire started and when 911 was called, but it appeared the fire had been smouldering for some time.

"Firefighters were here in three minutes and 25 seconds," Nigro said. "Unfortunately the outcome may have been determined before they arrived, that this fire was advanced."

Neighbors alerted emergency responders to the blaze.

"I was just about to go to sleep and I heard someone say, 'mommy, mommy, help me,'" said Andrew Rosenblatt, 65, who lives around the corner and called 911. He and his wife, Karen, saw flames and smoke coming from the house.

"It was a thick, heavy smoke," Karen Rosenblatt, 64, said. Andrew Rosenblatt said he heard a child scream.

When firefighters arrived, they were met by a heavy smoke and fire, Nigro said.

"They broke the front door down and the fire met them there, they pushed the fire back enough that some of the members could rush up the stairs," Nigro said. "And when they got up the stairs they did locate the children, but it was too late."