Four Dead in Suspicious Brooklyn Fire, One Killed in Queens Blaze

NEW YORK (AP) -- Four people died, including two children, and two others were critically injured in a suspicious fire early New Year's Day at a Brooklyn apartment building, authorities said. A 39-year-old man died in a separate fire in Queens.

In Brooklyn, the dead included Jeffrey and Bernard Viaud, ages five and two, Nadege Viaud, 31, and Ribule Lemorin, 43, police said. Their bodies were found in a bedroom after the fire was brought under control less than an hour after it was reported at 2:56 a.m., said Firefighter Charlie Markey, a fire department spokesman.

Firefighters rescued three others. They included an 8-year-old boy who was in critical condition on Sunday, and a 57-year-old woman whose condition was not immediately known, a spokesman for New York Presbyterian Hospital said. A 62-year-old man was believed to be less seriously injured.

How the victims were related remained unclear, police said.

Markey said the fire was ``definitely deemed suspicious'' after investigators found a gasoline can at the fire scene, an apartment on the top floor of a six-story building on Washington Avenue in the Crown Heights section.

Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said firefighters were short-handed because of personnel cuts, which he said also affected the department's response to a fire that killed five people last month in Queens.

Cassidy said it took several additional minutes to stretch a fire hose 500 feet to the Brooklyn apartment and put water on the fire because the first fire company to respond had its manpower reduced from five to four firefighters on Dec. 2.

``It's the most critical thing we do to save lives,'' Cassidy said of the race to douse flames with water. ``It was absolutely impacted by these manpower problems.''

Cassidy said the firefighters did manage to carry the injured out after ``they made a heroic push to get into the apartment and put water on the fire.''

Markey, though, said he did not believe the response to the fire was affected by manpower issues.

In the Jamaica section of Queens, John Fotiades, 39, was killed in a fire at a three-story house that was reported at 11:33 a.m. Saturday and brought under control a half hour later, Markey said. Three civilians and two firefighters suffered minor injuries in the blaze, he added.

There was no immediate word on the fire's cause.