menorah blamed

Another Brooklyn fire tragedy claims 4

Tehillim for 3 in critical condition


Thousands of mourners on Monday evening followed a procession for four members of the Azan family who perished in a Brooklyn house fire early Monday morning.

A Fire Department spokesman said the blaze was triggered by an “unattended lit menorah.”

On Tuesday night, Tehillim were said in many Jewish communities — including in the Five Towns at the Young Israel of Woodmere — for the speedy recovery of Shilat bas Louza Aliza, 16; Daniel ben Louza Aliza, 15; and Yosef ben Ahua Musuda.

The father, son and daughter were reported in critical condition “fighting for their lives” at Staten University Hospital, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. Two other boys, with less severe injuries, were being treated at Maimonides Medical Center in Boro Park.

The  fire, which began at around 2:20 am on Monday, quickly engulfed the 2-1/2-story single-family wood-frame home on East 14th Street in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. The family reportedly kept a two-foot-wide oil-burning menorah in a living room window. One of the surviving Azan children and a teenage cousin told investigators that the menorah had been left buring after they went to sleep and that they saw the fire start nearby, the New York Times reported.

Fire marshals suspect that the glass may have cracked under extended heat exposure, spilling oil and spreading flames, said the Times, which quoted Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America: “Jewish families are generally very cognixant of the danger of open flames, as candles or oil lamps are used to usher in the Shabbath each week as well as on holidays, particularly Chanukah. But, like any open flame, they should not be left unattended.”

Nigro said firefighters arrived in “less than three minutes” after receiving a call and that “in that short period of time, the fire met them at the front door.”

They “acted very aggressively for this building to try and rescue these folks,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was too late.”

Nigro said the father managed to escape from the second floor and save two teenagers and that two sons, who were sleeping on the first floor, also managed to escape.

“He tried to go back in and save the rest of his family, the ones he didn’t already save,” said Niego. “We believe he acted courageously and tried desperately.”

Fire Department officials said the house had a working smoke detector, which may have alerted the boys on the first floor to the fire.

“The boys on the first flood did hear it,” Nigro said. “They alerted folks that there was a fire, and I believe the people that called [911] from across the street also heard an alarm that was activated.”

Another tragedy struck the same Brooklyn community two years ago, when seven children in the Sassoon family died after a Shabbos hot plate started a house fire. Both families belong to Brooklyn’s Syrian community and are friends. The Azans emigrated from Israel 15 years ago.

Itzik Sudri, who knows Yossi from their days in yeshiva, described the couple as “filled with joie de vivre and hospitality, people who opened their door to anyone who came to Brooklyn from Israel,” Ynetnews reported.

“Everyone’s crying non-stop, it’s like a nightmare,” an Israeli relative of the family told the website Behadrey Haredim. “But despite the immense difficulty, we — as observant Jews -— reconciled ourselves to what happened.

“We have no questions: G-d gave, and G-d hath taken away.”

Bereaved members of the community gathered outside Congregation Sheves Achim in Gravesend on Monday evening before the victims — Aliza (Luza) Azan, a”h, 39; her sons Moshe, z”l, 11, and Yitzcak, z”l; 7; and her daughter Henrietta, a”h, 3,  — were transported to a flight leaving from JFK. Their levaya was anticipated at Holon cemetary on Wednesday.

Nigro reminded everyone that candiles should never be left unattened. “I caution every year: Celebrate but celebrate safely,” he said.

Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock reminded residents that “thousands of fire deaths occur” during the winter holidays “that are preventable by simply following some basic fire safety principles.” (See “Fire safety reminder” story on top of this page.)