Fire officials: Deadly Bushwick fire started by boy

March 29, 2011 3:09:56 PM PDT
Investigators have determined that the tragic fire in Brooklyn that killed a father and two of his children was set by his 5-year-old son.

The 62-year-old man and his teenage and toddler daughters were unable to escape as flames tore through their home on Putnam Avenue in Bushwick Monday afternoon.

The fire moved very quickly and completely gutted the brownstone, sending four others to the hospital, including a 47-year-old man who remains in critical condition. The bodies of the victims weren't found until after firefighters extinguished the flames.

The woman who lost her husband and two of her kids spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News Tuesday morning.

Theresa Larmond wiped her cheeks, dripping wet with tears for all that she's lost - a home, a husband and two little girls.

Larmond said she knows there's nothing left inside, but she stood outside hoping firefighters would find the urn of her daughter, Vernita, who died of leukemia two years ago. When they did, it was a brief moment of joy for a mother who must provide for her six surviving children after having lost three daughters. The urn was basically the only thing salvaged from the building. Now, Theresa is a widow with no place to live and no clothes for her kids.

Sixty-two-year old Jeffrey Larmond, 14-year-old Dijahna Larmond and 3-year-old Ja'Miyah Larmond died when the apartment building went up in flames Monday evening around 5:30. The family of 10 lived on the second and third floors of the building. Larmond says her common-law husband, who she calls Pops, had just picked the kids up from school when the fire broke out.

"Dijahna called me, saying there was a fire in the house and her and Ja'Miyah can't get out," she said. "Then I just took my phone up and I ran out the store and I tried to get a cab. When I couldn't get a cab, I stopped the police and the police brung me over here."

Investigators say Larmond's 5-year-old son was playing with a lighter on a bed when the mattress caught fire.

Instead of calling 911, the family dragged the burning mattress into the hallway. But that made things worse, spreading the flames through the apartment and blocking the stairway - their only way out.

Firefighters say three to five precious minutes were wasted with no 911 call. During that time, Husniya Frazier helped the other six kids get out.

The first emergency call came from a person who spotted the flames from the street, while neighbors and other building tenants watched in horror.

"I just feel guilty, because I kept telling him the baby was okay," neighbor Arelis Cruz said. "And the baby was not okay. I didn't know how to tell him the truth."

Witnesses saw firefighters carrying out the lifeless toddler, an image no one wants etched in their memory.

"When I saw them bring the small body, I just ran from the window crying," neighbor Shameeka Hughes said. "It's a lot on me."

"He had tears in his eyes," Cruz said, of the firefighter carrying the girl.

Neighbors saw at least one man jump out a fourth-floor window. They also saw firefighters brave a wall of flames to save others.

Reaching the desperate victims trapped inside was an uphill battle.

"They were met with heavy fire on the second floor, at top of the stoop, in the hallway and up the stairs," FDNY Deputy Chief Stephen Moro said.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, mostly burns and bruises.

Officials say the boy who started the fire will be recommended to the FDNY's juvenile fire starters program.