No Working Smoke Detectors in House Where 5 Died: Officials

Four children and their grandmother died in the borough's deadliest fire on record.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Four children and an adult died in a fast-moving fire that engulfed their New Jersey home early Thursday, fire officials said. A neighbor said the adult victim was the children's grandmother. Pat Battle reports. (Published Thursday, Feb 23, 2012)

    The South Plainfield, N.J. house where a fast-moving fire killed five members of a family -- four of them children -- had no working smoke detectors, fire officials said Friday.

    Fire Chief Thomas Scalera said no cause has been determined, but investigators are focusing on the first-floor kitchen area as the point of origin for the fire that broke out early Thursday, which was the deadliest on record for the borough.

    Scalera said it was impossible to say whether the family could have gotten out if smoke detectors had alerted them to the fire, but added: "all I can say is, smoke detectors save lives."

    The attached home next door had some working smoke detectors, Scalera said, but also several that did not work. At least one person was in the neighboring home at the time of the fire and was able to get out, he said.

    Authorities say they are still working to identify the dead and haven't released their names. Four other members of the family were injured in the blaze, including an 8-year-old boy, who remained hospitalized Friday.

    Scalera said Friday that the house had elements that date back 150 years, helping to create "a kind of cauldron" inside, once the fire began.

    All five victims -- the four children and their grandmother -- were found together in a second-floor room, he said. That room was directly above the kitchen, where the fire is believed to have started. 

    Witnesses said firefighters were at the home within minutes, but the flames were so intense they couldn't fight through them to rescue the children.

    South Plainfield Mayor Matthew Anesh said the borough has rallied to support the family.

    "I know I speak for all our residents when I convey our heartfelt condolences to the family," he said.