An unattended lit menorah sparked a fast-moving fire that killed a mother and three children, ages 11, 7 and 3, and left their father and two teen siblings in critical condition, a fire official said.
Firefighters arrived within 3 minutes of getting a call about the 2:30 a.m. blaze on East 14th Street in Sheepshead Bay, but officials say flames were already consuming all three floors of the building.
Aliza Azan, 39, was dead on the second floor of the single-family home, near the children who perished: 11-year-old Moshe; 7-year-old Yitzah and 3-year-old Henrietta.
The kids' 45-year-old father and his teenage son, along with a 16-year-old who was spending the night, were critically injured, officials said; seven others, including five firefighters and two boys, had minor injuries.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the mother and father lived inside the house with their six children. The cousin was visiting for the night, Nigro said. Nine people were in the house at the time of the blaze, Nigro said.
The blaze took about two hours to contain. Dramatic photos from the aftermath showed the home completely gutted as emergency crews crowded the scene.
"This is a terrible tragedy, not just for this community, but for our city," Nigro said. "This time of year, when these things strike, it just tears your heart out for the family."
He added, "Our city grieves with this family today."
Nigro said a preliminary investigation indicates a smoke alarm was activated, which may have alerted two survivors. He said no smoke detector was recovered, but witnesses reported hearing the alarm.
Firefighters said unattended candles, overloaded outlets and power strips "and many of the holiday traditions we all hold dear" often cause fires.
"So often, tragedy strikes at this time of year, and the holidays make it that much more difficult because our communities should be celebrating, not mourning," Nigro said.
A longtime family friend and neighbor, Morris Levy, said the family had recently moved into the house. He said Azan's father was a rabbi.
"A very nice lady," he told The New York Times. "Such a beautiful family."