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Cause of fire that killed baby still not determined

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - Utica fire officials say the home where a devastating fire killed a 6-month-old baby girl was up to code and up to date on its inspections.

It was around 10 a.m. Sunday when that fire tore through the second-floor apartment of 1508 Dudley Ave. in Utica.  The fire pushed back the efforts of everyone to get to the baby, including her mother.

"You can't go through fire. These people -- and even the firefighters -- they're human beings," said  Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks.

The chief says investigators have not yet ruled out arson, but they have been able to rule out some common accidental fire causes they often encounter this time of year.

"They've been able to eliminate sources of ignition such as heaters ... they found no evidence that there were candles or some other obvious causes."

Brooks said firefighters could hear smoke detectors going off as they fought the fire. He says the language barrier with the Somali family made it difficult to convey to them that the baby did not survive the fire.

Officials at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees say they're bound by law to teach fire safety to the refugees they resettle. 

"We teach them 911, their address, how to use the phone, fire safety, smoke detectors, battery changing and all that, fire extinguishers and we do it all in their language," says Executive Director Shelly Callahan.  "We look at where they're coming from, we look at the norms of where they're coming from and we address that specifically with each incoming culture."

Callahan says the center is working with Utica's Municipal Housing Authority and Fire Department on a new grant that would allow the center to offer additional fire safety to its refugees.

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