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'Devastating:' Somers mourns after 4 children killed in house fire

Firefighters work at the scene of a fire on Quality Avenue in Somers on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. Four children between the ages of 5 and 12 were killed in the fire that broke out the night of Jan. 2.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
Firefighters work at the scene of a fire on Quality Avenue in Somers on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. Four children between the ages of 5 and 12 were killed in the fire that broke out the night of Jan. 2.

As fire raced through a house in Somers Tuesday night, neighbors tried to help put it out and firefighters quickly arrived to the scene.

But the house was already engulfed in flames. The fire spread rapidly, cutting off the stairway, and trapping people on the second floor.

Four children were killed. Three of their siblings survived, although one had serious burn injuries.

The children who died were ages 5, 6, 8 and 12.

The fire has left the small northern Connecticut town, about 25 miles northeast of Hartford, in shock.

“This is an unprecedented tragedy in this town,” First Selectman Tim Keeney said.

Connecticut's governor described the news as "devastating."

The fire ripped through a two-family home on Quality Avenue shortly after 10 p.m. Four people on the other side of the house escaped without injuries.

Officials don't believe the fire was criminal in nature, although an investigation continues into how it started.

Neighbor David Kellam said he saw flames coming from the house late Tuesday night and tried to help.

"Somebody came from the second floor jumping out the window," Kellam said. "It was just horrible — horrifying. I haven't slept all night. It's just unbelievable."

The children lived with their mother, who was not home at the time; her 19-year-old daughter, who was watching over the other children, escaped by jumping out of a second-story window, Keeney said.

Fire Chief John Roache said fire crews had a difficult time getting inside the home because a back entrance was blocked and flames prevented entry through the front door.

About 60 personnel from 12 agencies responded to the fire, he said.

“The entire front of the house was heavily involved in fire," Roache said. "The house was an older construction with numerous concealed spaces, which allowed the fire to spread rapidly.”

Three children were pronounced dead at the scene and a fourth child died of their injuries at a local hospital, according to Roache. One firefighter was also injured during the fire, but was treated and released from a hospital.

Firefighters rescued three dogs from the home, but a litter of puppies died, Roache said.

Schools in Somers were providing counseling to staff, students and families affected by the fire, according to superintendent Dr. Sam Galloway.

"Our Somers community is dealing with an unimaginable loss," Galloway said in a statement. "Assistance will be ongoing as we begin to process this tremendous loss."

Elected officials — in Somers and around the state — expressed their condolences.

"The news of the fire ... in Somers that took the lives of four young children is absolutely devastating," Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. "I am appreciative of the work of the first responders on the scene who provided aid during this emergency. My prayers are with their families and friends."

A sneaker and bike are among the charred remnants of a residential fire that took place on Quality Avenue in Somers. The fire broke out the night of January 2, and four children between the ages of 5 and 12 were killed.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
A sneaker and bike are among the charred remnants of a fire that broke out at a residence on Quality Avenue in Somers. Four children between the ages of 5 and 12 were killed in the fire that took place on January 2, 2024.

Fire investigators remained at the home Wednesday in an attempt to determine the cause of the fire.

The Connecticut State Police's Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit as well as the Eastern District Major Crime Squad are assisting in the investigation.

“This is the first incident like this I’ve ever been a witness to," Keeney told reporters. "It will take us a long time to get over it."

How to help

Town officials say donations may be directed to the Town of Somers Angel Fund, 619 Main St., Somers, CT 06071.

Meanwhile, State Police are asking residents who may have photos or video of the fire to contact Det. Patrick O’Brien at Patrick.j.obrien@ct.gov

Connecticut Public's Matt Dwyer and The Associated Press contributed to this report, which has been updated.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.
Mark Mirko is Deputy Director of Visuals at Connecticut Public and his photography has been a fixture of Connecticut’s photojournalism landscape for the past two decades. Mark led the photography department at Prognosis, an English language newspaper in Prague, Czech Republic, and was a staff-photographer at two internationally-awarded newspaper photography departments, The Palm Beach Post and The Hartford Courant. Mark holds a Masters degree in Visual Communication from Ohio University, where he served as a Knight Fellow, and he has taught at Trinity College and Southern Connecticut State University. A California native, Mark now lives in Connecticut’s quiet-corner with his family, three dogs and a not-so-quiet flock of chickens.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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