Two small children die in house fire on State Street Road, Batavia
Two young children died in a house fire at 8157 State Street Road, Batavia, late Friday night, at a time when their mother was not home.
It's unclear if any adults were in the apartment at the time of the fire, said Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster, Sheriff's Office, which is leading the investigation into the fire.
The cause has yet to be determined, but it started in the bottom apartment in the back of the residence.
The bodies of the children, both age 2, were found in that same location.
Brewster said he couldn't say for sure if the mother left the children with an adult to supervise them, or if she left them alone while she went to the store.
"I don't know and we're going to get to the bottom of that," Brewster said. "That's why we're going to talk with the mother."
The mother was in no condition to be interviewed tonight, Brewster said.
The fire was reported just before 10 p.m. when the upstairs resident returned home and spotted the fire. He called 9-1-1.
Town of Batavia arrived on scene quickly and fire chiefs were told there was a possibility of people trapped in the residence, so Deputy Chief Dan Coffey said he quickly sounded a second alarm.
The back of the house was fully involved at that point. The first firefighters on scene made entry and located the deceased children.
Asked if the evidence was pointing toward a fire deliberately set or accidental, Brewster said investigators are leaning toward accidental.
"That's why we have fire service here, to investigate that," Brewster said. "Right now, I'm not sure. It doesn't look like anything other than that -- accidental -- that's why they are here and that's what their job is. They will go through and make a thorough investigation."
About 10 minutes after firefighters arrived on the scene, two women ran up to the house and had to be restrained as they tried to enter it. Over the course of the next half hour, more people arrived who seemed to be friends or family members and there were women wailing and yelling. Troopers, deputies and Batavia PD officers did their best to assist them.
The two apartments were occupied by members of the same family, and members of that family also lived in a neighboring house. At one point, neighbors thought three children died in the fire, but that third child was in the neighboring house, according to landlord Joe Burke.
"It's my understanding that the mother went out to get milk for her little kids," Burke said.
Yellow tape was put around the scene at one point during the night and criminal investigators were called in once the fire was out and entry was safe for them.
But both Coffey and Brewster said the appearance of a criminal investigation doesn't necessarily mean a crime is suspected.
"It's a crime scene until proven otherwise," Coffey said, who besides being a volunteer firefighter is a Batavia police officer. "Obviously, we have two fatalities, so we're erring on the side of cause. We're treating it as a crime until proven different, but that's not indicative of any sort of information that we know at this point. It is how we would normally handle a call like this."
The location is the same as a reported hit-and-run accident April 1 in which resident Brian Ace suffered injuries and had to be taken by Mercy Flight to an area hospital. Ace declined to press charges in that case.
Investigators, at this point, don't seem to believe there is any connection between that incident and the fire.
There were no fatal fires in the Town of Batavia Fire District from 2008 until this year. This is the second fatal fire for Town volunteers in less than a month. On April 30, a fire at a residence on Oak Orchard Road claimed the life of Roger Saile, age 90.
"Obviously, it's been a tough stretch for us," Coffey said. "This one, obviously, is going to hurt. Just two weeks ago, three weeks ago, we also had that other one, so we're going ot make sure that we take care of our members, but it's going to be a difficult time for us."