By Calvin Palmer
A fire at a two-story apartment house on Staten Island, New York, claimed the lives of a mother and her four children in the early hours of this morning.
The mother, 32-year-old Lisa Jones, and her four children — two-year-old Jermaine; seven-year-old Melanie, 10-year-old Brittany and 14-year-old CJ — died in their second-floor apartment in the building on Nicholas Avenue, in the Port Richmond neighborhood.
The tenants in the three other apartments escaped from the house that was not equipped with smoke detectors, which are required by law.
“We keep trying to remind people that a simple $10 or $15 smoke detector could have made a difference in saving five lives here,” Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said.
Jones originally from Trinidad came to New York earlier this year and had worked as a security guard at the Macy’s store at the Staten Island Mall, among other jobs. The children’s father lived in Jamaica.
“She came out here to try to make a better life for her kids,” said her friend Shaquawna Meaders, 25, who lives down the street and visited the apartment yesterday evening.
The fire originated in Jones’ apartment and quickly moved through the attic space and roof. The building was well ablaze by the time firefighters arrived on the scene at 4:15 a.m. It took 140 firefighters 90 minutes to bring the fire under control.
Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer said a firefighter was able to get Jermaine out of the burning apartment because the boy was near the front door. The other children were in the middle of the apartment and the mother was toward the rear, he said.
Jermaine was taken Staten Island University Hospital, where he died.
Nicholas Cotton, who lived in the other second-floor apartment with his girlfriend, Shannon Barbach, said they were awakened by banging. He went to the window and saw people outside yelling, “Fire!”
When he opened his bathroom door, he saw flames shooting through the wall from Jones’ apartment on the other side.
Cotton’s apartment had two exits, but Jones’ had only one, he said.
According to a preliminary investigation, it does not appear that the fire is suspicious. The investigation by fire officials is continuing.