âThese homes were built 97 years ago,â Mr. Nigro said. âTheyâre wood-frame homes, and they burn rapidly.â
He said the cause of the fire was being investigated.
Mr. de Blasio, who had spoken at a church in nearby Jamaica, Queens, earlier in the day, said, âWhat we do know is five lives are lost, three of them children, an extraordinarily large toll for any fire.â
A Fire Department official said it was highly unusual for so many people to die in a fire in the middle of the day, when people are typically awake and able to escape.
Mr. Nigro said firefighters had found the 2-year-old boy in the attic of the home, where he had been trapped, perhaps with another person. In all, firefighters found five people inside, and all of them died.
Mr. Nigro said a middle-aged man had leapt or fallen from a second-story window. He said the man had survived and had been hospitalized in satisfactory condition.
It was not immediately clear how the victims were related to one another.
Foster McPhee, 67, who lives in the neighborhood, said he was driving by when he saw smoke and flames pouring from the house and pulled over.
âThe next thing I know, the firefighterâs coming out carrying a baby, and the baby was badly burned,â Mr. McPhee said.
He said firefighters also brought out what he thought were a young man and a woman. âI couldnât really tell â they were burned so badly,â he said. âIt was just horrible to see.â
The house was left a charred hull by the flames, which burned away much of its cream-colored siding. The fire also damaged one of the houses next door, Mr. Nigro said. The street, lined with small houses, most of them three stories tall, was cordoned off on Sunday evening, when the area was still crowded with firefighters and emergency workers.
It was an emotional scene as women cried and embraced in a yard across the street, beyond the police tape. Down the block, another man gently sobbed on the sidewalk. A woman ran up to the police tape, jumping and screaming, overcome with emotion. âWhy would God let this happen?â she cried, repeating it over and over again.
âItâs not fair!â she said as others sought to console her. âWeâre a God-fearing family. It ainât right.â
The scene drew a crowd of neighbors, who stood along the police lines on a chilly, overcast evening. Some had known the family. âTheyâre very nice people,â said Gary Rhodes, who lives about a block away. âIt hurts. Itâs sad, man.â
Others came because they were troubled by what had happened. âIâm feeling hurt,â said Dorothy Bush, who also lives nearby. She said that she was a minister and that she would pray for the victims. âI feel pain,â she said. âItâs a tragedy.â
Neighbors said the man who escaped the fire was a mechanic who…