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After fatal Brooklyn blaze, officials start fire prevention campaign

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Firefighters inspect

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Firefighters inspect a home fire in the Midwood neighborhood in Brooklyn on March 21, 2015 in New York City. Seven children from the same family died in the fire, ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old, with two others in critical condition. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty Images / Kena Betancur

City leaders stressed the importance of smoke detectors yesterday, just days after seven children were killed in a Midwood fire sparked by a faulty hot plate.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, holding up a smoke detector inside FDNY headquarters at a news conference, also called for a burn center to be built in the borough.

The fast-moving fire was sparked when a food warming plate, which was left on for the Sabbath, malfunctioned early Saturday.

Seven children, ages 5 to 16, died upstairs where they were sleeping. Their mother, Gayle Sassoon, and her 15-year-old surviving daughter, Tzipora, jumped out of a second-story window. They remained in critical condition yesterday.

There were no signs of smoke detectors on the first or second floors of the home, according to officials.

"It is our goal to really turn a pain into purpose," Adams said, adding that a smoke detector is a "simple device" that should be in every home. "Our goal is to educate and re-educate. This one device is the difference between life and death."

Adams said fire safety fliers will be passed out at train stations and malls in the borough with prevention tips.

These fliers, written in English, Spanish and Yiddish, warn of fire hazards, touting staying in the kitchen while cooking and limiting distractions.

Public Advocate Letitia James said she hopes to give this tragedy "meaning by creating a call to action."

"Together we will empower, we will educate, engage all of our neighbors and friends about fire safety, so this never happens again," James said. "This is a community effort. And this is about the power of prayer and the power of action and education."

Yet, as Gabriel Sassoon flew to Israel to bury his seven children there, some community leaders pledged to continue using electric appliances to keep food warm during the Sabbath.

Hot plates, or slow cookers, are often left on in Orthodox Jewish homes to keep food warm during the Sabbath when tradition dictates you can't light a flame or turn appliances on or off.

Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, executive director of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, said hot plate fires are rare, and he doesn't expect anyone to stop using them.

"Obviously you have to take safety precautions," Rabbi Silber said. "There's thousands of families who do it every Saturday. It's a very important part of the Saturday morning menu."

Councilmember David Greenfield, who represents Borough Park, Midwood, and Bensonhurst, said the "most pragmatic and practical solution" is to use a timer for these appliances.

But Greenfield did not argue for cutting hot plates or slow cookers out of Sabbath tradition completely.

"The reality is the incidents of hot plates catching fire in the United States of America -- and hot plates are used by tens of millions of people every single day -- are extremely low," Greenfield said. "The advice that we're giving is not about hot plates. But rather it's about keeping an eye on any item that you are cooking."


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