Family of Young N.J. Fire Victims Holding Fire Officials Responsible

March 24, 2005 -- Fire officials who investigated and dismissed a smoke call at a New Jersey home that later erupted in an inferno, killing four children, fear the family will hold them responsible for the tragedy.

"I'm sure there'll be litigation," one official said.

A preliminary investigation by the Teaneck Fire Department found an overloaded 20-amp circuit caused the motor in a basement freezer to burn out and start the fire.

Neighbors and friends of the decimated family said yesterday they were still troubled by the department's actions on the night of the blaze.

"I just don't understand how they could go in that house, find nothing, then allow those children back in, and then that house goes up in flames," said one family friend.

Insurance company agents combed through the house, taking pictures, and workers boarded up the windows as 2,000 friends, relatives, classmates and teachers filed into the Seidenfeld family's synagogue, Congregation Keter Torah, to say farewell to the four tragic youngsters.

Noticeably absent was their mother, Philyss, 42, who remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Her children's four small caskets, draped in black cloth and lined up side by side in front of the altar, brought sobs to most eyes in the packed sanctuary.

The tears continued during the hourlong service as the four siblings were lovingly remembered by their rabbis, teachers, relatives and friends.

Too distraught to speak, their father, Howard Seidenfeld, sat alongside his three surviving girls as a friend read his tender words of tribute to the children he's lost:

Ari, 15