Three young children and an elderly man were killed in their Queens home yesterday evening. Newsday says the fire was started by a child playing with matches. Two of the children, 5 and 6 year old brothers, were found hiding with each other in the closet of their basement apartment, while their 1 year old baby daughter was found in her crib; the 88 year old man was found outside their door and fire officials suspect that he was trying to save them. The Red Cross says that twenty-one people lived in the house, with eight in the basement. The fire took almost three hours to put out, because a locked gate blocked firefighters from the cellar door. FDNY Response time was six minutes; the NY Times notes that is within the national average, but NYC response time is more like 4.5 minutes. The city is also investigating whether or not the building's basement dwelling was legal; basement living is only legal when at least half of it is above ground.
Photograph from Newsday