The death of an 8-year-old boy in an early morning fire last Wednesday could have been avoided if his house had smoke detectors, fire officials said this week.
William Grice, a third-grader at PS 236, was found dead by the firefighters who broke down his first-floor bedroom door a half hour after they gained control of the 6 am blaze at the two-family, two-story house on East 57th Street between Avenue T and Avenue U.
“If the house had a smoke alarm, the family would have been alerted to the fire earlier and had a better chance of getting the child out in time,” said FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer, who pointed out that the brick house didn’t have any.
Landlordsare required by law to install smoke detectors in apartments, and tenants are responsible for maintaining them, according to state building code. Neither Grice’s family nor their landlord, Stanley Hechtman, could be reached for comment.
Four other residents, including William’s pre-teen sister, Nicole, and grandmother, Selma Cohen, along with Hechtman and his mother, Betty, were treated for smoke inhalation at Brookdale University Hospital in East Flatbush. Hechtman and his mother escaped through their apartment’s door, heading down the stairs to the front door, while Nicole and her grandmother climbed out a window.
A neighbor, Frank Cardello, said that he called 911 after being woken up by Cohen and her granddaugher.
“They were running down the block in their pajamas, screaming and knocking on doors to let people know the house was on fire and that William was stuck inside,” Cardello said. “I looked over to their house and saw the smoke bellowing out the window.”
The fire occurred as the city shoveled out from under the fifth-largest snowstorm in history, which caused borough-wide delays in responses to 911 calls. But FDNY officials said that the snow did not affect the rescue effort. Response time to the blaze was four-and-a-half minutes, which is considered average.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials suspect that bad electrical wiring is to blame, and the fire may have started in the boy’s room.
Grice’s school will be collecting donations for his family, according to neighborhood blog tonygatto.com.