"Just a tragic, tragic morning"

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Fire officials believe that a mother and three children were likely already deceased before they were even able to arrive on the scene of a heartbreaking fire on Schuyler Street in Utica on Monday.

The fire broke out at 935 Schuyler Street shortly before 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and as fire crews responded to the scene, they found flames and smoke billowing out of the two and a half story duplex.

Fire officials said their crews had two primary jobs at the scene - the obvious fighting of the fire, as well as making their way through the mass chaos to determine if, in fact, any people were trapped inside.

Confusion was added as roughly several dozen people were telling officials conflicting reports to police and fire crews about who may have been or may not have been inside the duplex.

However, due to the intensity of the fire and the smoke, officials said firefighters could not simply just run into the building, as there was concern that the building was not structurally sound and could collapse. In fact, any firefighters who did make their way inside were evacuated around 9:40 a.m.due to the safety concerns.

Around 10 a.m., crews were able to make their way back inside the home, and when they came out, brought with them four bodies - a mother and three small children - an infant, a two year old child, and a four year old child. Utica Police said they did not expect to release the names of the family Monday.

Two dogs were also said to have been killed in the fire.

It was a tragedy that Fire Chief Russell Brooks said would not have likely been lessened even if crews had been able to enter the building, as he believed they had died prior to the arrival of firefighters on the scene.

"We realized early on into this operation that if there was anyone in that building, the fire would have claimed their lives," Chief Brooks said. "Then our goal became, obviously, not to lose any firefighters. It (the fire) was ahead of us. They were probably dead when we got here. It's just a tragic, tragic morning."

Chief Brooks said that a fire inspection had occurred in the building a year ago that turned up numerous problems. However, he said the landlord fixed those problems and the building had then passed inspection.

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