1. #1
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    Post Four Children Die, Mom Burned In N.J. Fire

    TEANECK, N.J. -- Hours after firefighters responding to a report of smoke could find nothing wrong, a house erupted in flames early Tuesday morning, killing four children and critically injuring their mother.

    Two other children -- girls Zahava, 14, and Aviva, 7 -- were rescued by a neighbor who propped a ladder against the burning home. The children were taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, which had no immediate information on their conditions.

    The dead children were boys Ari, 15; Noah, 6; and Natan, 4; and a 5-year-old girl, Adira, said police Lt. Norman Levine.

    Fire Chief John Bauer said the fire department got a call from the house at 8:30 p.m. Monday reporting smoke in the basement of three-story brick Tudor.

    "On our arrival, there was no smoke. We spent over a half-hour checking the house. We couldn't find anything wrong with the house. We checked all the electrical devices," Bauer said.

    The family's nanny was asleep on a couch on the first floor when she awoke to heavy smoke at about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, Levine said. He identified her as Betty Mbaza, 37, and said she was in serious condition at the Hackensack hospital.

    "She woke up and yelled up to the mother. Apparently they couldn't make it down the stairs. They tried to get out the windows, but only a few of them made it," Levine said.

    The children's father was not at home, he said. Broadcast reports said the couple was divorced.

    The mother, Philyss Seidenfeld, 42, was trapped in a second-floor bathroom, where police and firefighters smashed a small window and pulled her to safety. She was listed in critical condition at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, hospital spokeswoman Robin Lally said.

    Once firefighters finished rescues and searches, it took about 30 minutes to put out the fire, Bauer said.

    "It was a very fast-moving fire in the basement that created smoke and heat, and went up through the walls," he said.

    At least three smoke detectors inside the house were functioning properly, the fire chief said. He said the children appear to have died from smoke inhalation; autopsies were pending.

    A neighbor, Betty Kay, said her daughter played with the family's children on Friday afternoons so the mother could prepare for the Jewish Sabbath. "The kids were adorable, adorable playful kids. It was a very busy household. She was a very special woman," Kay said.

    "Everyone in the community is in tremendous shock and grief over this loss of life, all of us. We all can't function. Everyone in the community is calling to see what they can do to help," Kay said.

    The Bergen County prosecutor's arson investigation unit was at the home Tuesday morning, but authorities said they had not determined whether arson was the cause of the fire.

    Bauer said investigators determined there was a problem with the home's furnace, but said that was ruled out as the fire's cause.

    2005 by WNBC.com The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    That is truly sad. My condolences to the family.

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    I hate those types of calls. No matter how good you check the house, there's always that "feeling" when you leave.
    Let's hope this is one big coincidence.

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    I think they played the dispatch tape for this fire on the news. It was absolutely gut-wrenching. The poor mother was beside herself, unable to get to her children. What a terrible, terrible tragedy.

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    On the news last night, the cause was looking like an overloaded electrical outlet in the cellar.
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    Wednesday update

    Excerpt from the Bergen Record Online:

    An overloaded electrical circuit connected to the washer, dryer, refrigerator and freezer in the basement had sparked the blaze at the Rutland Avenue home. The chief said the men had checked all the home's appliances during their first visit Monday evening, but found nothing wrong other than a minor problem with a water valve in the furnace. They told the homeowner to call a plumber.

    Deputy Fire Chief Frank Florio said the overloaded electrical line was not apparent during the 30-minute inspection.

    "The lines are in the wall," Florio said. "You look at the wires and you feel the wall [for heat]. Usually after the fact is when you find it."

    The blaze is under investigation by the Fire Department, the Bergen County Arson Squad, the county Prosecutor's Office and the state Division of Fire Safety, said Township Manager Helene Fall.

    On Tuesday, some fire officials from towns outside of Teaneck questioned why the department did not use a thermal-imaging camera on its first visit to the home. The device can recognize otherwise undetectable smoke and fire burning inside walls by measuring temperature changes.

    Bauer said the department has three thermal-imaging cameras but did not use them because firefighters had not found any smoke.

    "If there was a smoke condition, we probably would have used it," Bauer said.

    Because the fire began when a freezer motor burned out, Bauer said, firefighters would not have found anything wrong even if they had used the thermal-imaging cameras.

    "The motor was in the back of the refrigerator and we would have had to pull the refrigerator away from the wall," he said.
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    A common problem, unfortunately. Surely, they would have noticed that during the inspection. We see it a lot, especially on campus. Ten different things plugged into one outlet. Common in old houses, too, where the original wiring only provided one or two outlets in a room, with fuses/breakers that are way too strong for the wiring load capacity.

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    Excerpt from Bergen Record

    Called to check out a report of smoke, the firefighters searched the house. They checked all the appliances and every floor. They couldn't smell any smoke, didn't see anything dangerous.

    "We feel confident that we did a complete investigation," Teaneck acting Fire Chief John Bauer said. "I think we did everything we possibly could."

    Four hours later, the house was ablaze, resulting in the death of four children.
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    "The motor was in the back of the refrigerator and we would have had to pull the refrigerator away from the wall," he said.
    Well, do it. Obviously, there was a problem, or they wouldn't have called.
    Bauer said the department has three thermal-imaging cameras but did not use them because firefighters had not found any smoke.
    A thermal imaging camera would have detected the faulty motor that was overheating immediately.
    Not playing "Monday-morning quarterback", but there was a problem, and they shouldn't have left until they found it. That means checking every electrical device present for malfunction/overheating. Complacency is a killer.

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    Wasn't there so can't make judgement on what they did/didn't do.

    But, in the past, I have used our TIC to look at a breaker panel and located overloaded outlets. The circuits themselves will sometimes overheat but not trip. Finding that hot breaker and checking the outlets on that circuit have, sometimes, led us to the overloaded ones. Again, was not there so can't say it would have shown anything or not.

    It must be a horrible feeling to deal with.
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    But, in the past, I have used our TIC to look at a breaker panel and located overloaded outlets. The circuits themselves will sometimes overheat but not trip. Finding that hot breaker and checking the outlets on that circuit have, sometimes, led us to the overloaded ones. Again, was not there so can't say it would have shown anything or not.
    We use the same tactics to locate overheated lighting ballasts and electric motors.

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    Default Re: Four Children Die, Mom Burned In N.J. Fire

    Originally posted by nozzelvfd
    The family's nanny was asleep on a couch on the first floor when she awoke to heavy smoke at about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, Levine said. He identified her as Betty Mbaza, 37, and said she was in serious condition at the Hackensack hospital.

    "She woke up and yelled up to the mother. Apparently they couldn't make it down the stairs. They tried to get out the windows, but only a few of them made it," Levine said.

    This truly a tragic event... sure a TIC may have identified the problem or potential cause of the fire.

    But... what I haven't seen in the news yet is, did the house have working smoke detectors? That may have saved the kids.
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    Default Re: Re: Four Children Die, Mom Burned In N.J. Fire

    Originally posted by mtnfireguy
    But... what I haven't seen in the news yet is, did the house have working smoke detectors? That may have saved the kids.
    I read and re-read four articles about this incident....and can not find any mention of smoke detectors. Early detection may have prevented these deaths.....but it appears there may not have been any indication until the smoke alerted the nanny.
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    Default Re: Re: Re: Four Children Die, Mom Burned In N.J. Fire

    Originally posted by NJFFSA16


    I read and re-read four articles about this incident....and can not find any mention of smoke detectors. Early detection may have prevented these deaths.....but it appears there may not have been any indication until the smoke alerted the nanny.

    There was 3 working smoke detectors in the house from what i have read.

    [i]At least three smoke detectors inside the house were functioning properly, the fire chief said. He said the children appear to have died from smoke inhalation; autopsies were pending.[/B]
    Last edited by pengman; 03-23-2005 at 11:29 AM.

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    Check the article on Firehouse.com:

    At least three smoke detectors inside the house were functioning properly, he said.
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    Duh....stupid me! I didn't read the FH article. I checked the Bergen Record articles locally. Thanks everyone!
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    Unfortunatly, I'm sure that this will end up in the court system ... even if they did all the right things. It's very easy for lawyers to say "they should have....", and unfortunatly jurys tend to see things like this the same way. I think probably 95% of the departments out there.. paid and volunteer.. would have missed this if there was no smoke condition upon thier arrival. Sometimes it's awfully tough to find a needle in a haystack ...

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    Originally posted by NJFFSA16
    Duh....stupid me! I didn't read the FH article. I checked the Bergen Record articles locally. Thanks everyone!
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    Unfortunatly, I'm sure that this will end up in the court system ... even if they did all the right things.
    From the article:
    Bauer said the department has three thermal-imaging cameras but did not use them because firefighters had not found any smoke.
    Why do we beg for these tools, then not use them? The family reported smoke in the building, so there was obviously a source of ignition somewhere. Any suspect appliance should have been checked thouroughly, and left unplugged until an electrician/technician could inspect them.

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    I read this yesterday....... Tragic......
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    Originally posted by LaFireEducator
    Unfortunatly, I'm sure that this will end up in the court system ... even if they did all the right things.
    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The state will review the actions of
    firefighters who checked out a house and found nothing wrong hours
    before a fatal fire killed four children.
    Teaneck officials invited the state inquiry Thursday, two days
    after a raging fire swept through the house, killing the siblings
    and critically injuring their mother. Two other siblings survived.
    Fire officials blamed an overloaded electrical circuit for the
    fire.
    Hours before the blaze broke out, the fire department had been
    called to the home to check out a smell of smoke. A dozen
    firefighters from four companies spent about 30 minutes at the
    house, The Record of Bergen County reported for Friday, but could
    find nothing wrong.
    The state Division of Fire Safety will review firefighters'
    initial response to the home and will audit the department's
    policies and procedures to "make sure this type of incident never
    happens again," said Susan Bass Levin, commissioner of the
    Department of Community Affairs.
    Teaneck police began the investigation, but township officials
    asked for an independent review to avoid any potential conflict of
    interest.
    "We want the events that transpired to be looked at in a way
    that, whatever the conclusion is, it will have deep credibility,"
    township Manager Helen Fall told The Record.
    The fire erupted at 1:45 a.m. - five hours after firefighters
    had checked out and cleared the house - killing Ari Seidenfeld, 15;
    his brothers, Noah, 6, and Natan, 4; and a 5-year-old sister,
    Adira. Their mother, Philyss Seidenfeld, and two siblings Aviva, 7,
    and Zahava, 12, were injured along with a nanny, Betty Mbaza.
    Funerals for the children were held Wednesday, while their
    mother remained hospitalized in critical condition.
    "We are not afraid of any investigation," said Mayor
    Jacqueline Kates, "because the feeling is that everything that
    could be done was done. But if the investigation shows that there
    are some procedures that need to be changed, we need to be aware of
    that."
    The origin of the fire has been traced to a basement freezer on
    an overloaded circuit, which caused the appliance's motor to burn
    out. Deputy Chief Frank Florio has said the condition was not
    readily apparent during Monday night's inspection.
    One question the review could answer is whether firefighters
    should have used a thermal-imaging camera on their first call to
    the house. The cameras seek out hot spots that can't be seen.
    Acting Fire Chief John Bauer has said the cameras wouldn't have
    picked up the circuit overload that caused the blaze.
    ---
    Information from: The Record of Bergen County,
    http://www.northjersey.com

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    This is just so sad. The question of smoke detectors was brought up but it has been documented that children sleep so deeply that they may not be able to arouse at the activation of such a device. How many times have your kids fallen asleep on the floor,you pick them up and carry them off to bed with not a peep? That's how deep little ones sleep. I have not a clue why the adults in the house didn't awaken in time,but even if they did they may have been too panicked to think clearly.

    When I was cheif,responding to a "smells and bells" call and not finding anything always caused me the most worry. I'd play it over and over in my head,"Did we miss something? Should we have done this or that? What if???"

    My empathy goes out to all involved in this tragic event.

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    Hey Nozzlman,

    Do you walk on water in the real world also, or just in the fantasy world that you live in?

    I have been reading your posts for a while and so far besides ***** stirring , you don't bring much to the table.

    Never had a smell that you could not locate? Then you have not been to enough calls. There are times that you cannot locate the source, and anyone that says they can track down 100% of their "smells" is a 100% liar.

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    falthead I agree, there is nothing worse than going there an NOT finding anything and then have a nightmare like this. I feel for all involved, and I wonder what can be done to prevent this from happening again. Sometimes you just cant find anything wrong at the time............
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    Originally posted by NEOgreg
    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/ar...nId=46&id=40373

    "Tragic.

    Does anyone else ever get that creepy feeling when clearing from a call such as the first part of this one that you've missed something?
    Say, a "smells & bells" where, no matter how hard and long that the company looks, the source can't be found (or disappears while you're still on-scene)?

    I always get that little voice inside asking "...are you SURE that everything got checked...?".

    Fortunately, I've never had a situation with an outcome like Teaneck's (I know, NEVER say never...).

    I'll go see the shrink now..."



    Coming in a little late in the game...

    Any thoughts?

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