NEW BRITAIN – Unattended chicken being cooked on a stove in the kitchen was determined to be the cause of the Elam Street fire in February that resulted in the death of two brothers, who were deceased by the time firefighters arrived on scene, and the injury of a firefighter.
The cause and origin of the blaze that had flames showing on three sides of the house, smoke from the ceiling to the floor and from the front to the back of the house, was released by the city’s fire marshal’s office Friday and obtained by The Herald. It was not clear if grease was involved because of the damage from the fire.
“This is a tragedy,” said Fire Marshal Don King. “We’re not going to remember this for just the rest of our careers, we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives. It’s devastating.”
Firefighters arrived on scene around 4:45 p.m., about four minutes after the first call to report the fire came in, and were told a child with autism was on the second floor. Crews were initially told the address was 23 Elam St. but quickly noticed the fire was further up the street when they arrived.
As crews attempted to search the second floor, the deputy chief on scene was told there was a second victim inside the building, the report said. Because of heavy smoke and high heat on the second floor, crews couldn’t make it up and were forced to retreat. That’s when they noticed one victim by the front door as they were coming back downstairs.
Firefighters attempted to ventilate the roof to increase visibility inside. However, after smoke jammed up the saws and a firefighter fellfrom the roof, they were ordered off the roof and to ventilate the side of the building.
That’s when the second victim was found next to first.
“I told my guys, you got 30 seconds to a minute,” Chief Raul Ortiz told The Herald. In the days following the fire, Ortiz said the conditions were too dangerous inside the house to put firefighters at risk of injury.
According to one of the responding fire crews that made a quick glimpse of the conditions inside the home, “the chances of survival by any civilian inside the home was nearly impossible.”
A thermal imaging camera showed temperatures were over 1,100 degrees at the ceiling level of the first floor.
After having found the bodies, all firefighters were called out of the building because the fire was too severe, the report said.
The attack of the fire became defensive, meaning it was done entirely from the outside, and lasted for over two hours. Crews didn’t leave the scene until about 8:40 p.m.
Elija Little, 17, and Shaheen Davis, 29, were identified as the two brothers who died because of smoke inhalation and heat injuries. The two were sons of Vicky Little, who lived in the house. A daughter of Vicky Little was able to get out of the fire and was the one who told investigators how the fire started.
Elijah Little, who was expected to graduate from New Britain High School this year, was reported by high school friends to have ran back into the building to save Davis, who was the autistic child.
There was no mention in the report of that happening. It was also unclear if the autism of Davis inhibited his ability to leave the house, Ortiz said, due in large part because of the inability to talk with him.
“There’s nothing else we could’ve done, but we’ll always be asking ourselves that,” King said.
The 1947 Cape Cod style house was demolished in May by Kapura General Contractors, who are starting to rebuild a new house at the location within the next few weeks on the dime of insurance, said Christopher McCarty of Kapura General Contractors.
The estimated value of the house that burned was $130,000, the report said. The inside of the home will have a more open floor plan between the kitchen and living room and more space in the bedrooms, he said. It’s expected to be finished around the end of September.
“It’s tough,” said McCarty of what the family has had to go through.
New Britain police detectives and the State Police Fire and Explosion investigation unit assisted with the city’s investigation. The Fire and Explosive investigation unit is still investigating, but what exactly is unclear, Ortiz said. State police said it could take until February of next year when the investigation ends.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or email@example.com.