Brooklyn house fire kills woman, 3 children, officials say

A fire in Sheepshead Bay killed Aliza Azan, pictured top left, and three of her children on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, police said. Her husband, Yosi, also pictured, survived.
A fire in Sheepshead Bay killed Aliza Azan, pictured top left, and three of her children on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, police said. Her husband, Yosi, also pictured, survived. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

This story was reported by Ivan Pereira, Alison Fox, Nicole Brown and Lauren Cook. It was written by Brown and Cook.

A Brooklyn house fire that killed a mother and three of her children early Monday was sparked by an unattended menorah, police and fire officials said.

Several hundred people crowded along Avenue T outside the Sheves Achim synagogue in Flatbush Monday night to offer their condolences at a funeral for the 39-year-old mother, identified as Aliza Azan, and her children, 11-year-old Moshe, 7-year-old Yitzah and 3-year-old Henrietta, just hours after their deaths.

“They were such a loving family,” said longtime friend Ami Harrosh, 61. “I’m still shocked; no one wants to go to work, no one wants to do anything.”

The fire, reported at about 2:20 a.m., started on the first floor and quickly moved up to the second floor and the attic of the 2 1/2 story house on East 14th Street, between avenues S and T, in Sheepshead Bay. Firefighters arrived at the home less than three minutes after getting the call and the fire “met them at the front door,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at a news conference.

Aliza Azan, Moshe, Yitzah and Henrietta were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. They were all sleeping on the second floor of the home, according to the commissioner.

The father, three children and their cousin survived the fire, but were injured, Nigro said. Three of them — dad Yosi, 16-year-old daughter Shalit and 15-year-old son Daniel — were in critical condition at Staten Island University Hospital after escaping from the second floor of the home, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said.

Two younger boys, who were in a rear bedroom on the first floor, got out through a side door. They were treated for minor injuries at Maimonides Medical Center, officials said.

Yosi Azan “acted very courageously,” Nigro said. “He tried to get back in to save the rest of his family.”

Fire marshals later determined the blaze was accidental, caused by an unattended lit menorah, the FDNY said.

The Azan family was honored with a moment of silence Monday evening during a menorah-lighting ceremony inside Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Standing amid a crowd of about 150 attendees, Adams said his heart goes out to the surviving family members. He also renewed his call for a burn unit to be created in Brooklyn, noting how the unit had been promised to residents after the deaths of seven children in a March 2015 house fire. 

“We committed ourselves after the loss of the Sassoon family members … yet we have failed to do so,” Adams said. “That failure must stop.”

New York Board of Rabbis executive vice president Joseph Potasnik said the mother of the children killed in 2015, Gayle Sassoon, called him to ask what she could do to help the Azan family.

Earlier Monday, teary-eyed friends of the Azan family gathered outside the charred home to console one another.

Avi Navon, 59, said Yosi Azan is originally from Israel and works as a manager of the clothing store “Hat Box” in Coney Island. 

“They’re a good family. I’m very shocked this happened to these people,” he said. “It’s a total loss.

The entire house was damaged by the fire, Nigro said. The family had lived in the home for less than a year, according to neighbors.

“The fire went from the first-floor front, up the stairs to the second floor, and again up the stairs into the two bedrooms in the attic, so the entire building on the inside is heavily damaged,” he said. 

More than 100 firefighters from 25 units responded to the fire, an FDNY spokeswoman said. Five suffered minor injuries, she said.

A smoke detector was inside the home and working at the time of the fire, the FDNY said. Investigators believe a smoke detector is what alerted the boys on the first floor to the fire, according to Nigro.