EAST NEW YORK, Brooklyn — The family of a mother and her adult daughter will now have to plan their funerals after a fire completely consumed their building here.
The fire broke out at around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, when virtually everybody in the 33 apartments at Belmont Street and Chestnut Avenue was asleep. The blaze, which started in the bodega on the ground floor and rose up into the apartments on the three floors above, was avoidable in two different ways, fire investigators said.
Fire investigators concluded that an unattended space heater in Steven Luna's bodega had ignited the fire, leaving more than two dozen other families are homeless,
Luna was on site Wednesday afternoon with some of his relatives, salvaging and sifting through what remained of his business. He had his head in his hands at one point, as he talked about what had happened, and what he’d lost.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” he said, choking up. “I don't know what happened."
The smoke and flames left a mother in her sixties, and her daughter in her forties, dead. The women’s names are not being released until the women’s relatives have been notified.
Investigators concluded that the batteries in a smoke detector in the women’s apartment were not operable.
The smoke detector may have saved their lives if it were working, according to FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro.
“Carelessness, on behalf of leaving that unattended electric heater and a lack of a working smoke alarm cost two people their lives," Nigro said.
The commissioner pointed out that the FDNY will engage in its annual fire safety education campaign in March, and that it’s a good plan for households to change batteries in their smoke detectors every time daylight saving time begins and ends.
Daylight saving time for 2018 begins March 11.