Brother and Sister Killed in Passaic Row House Fire

12 04 2008

A brother and sister were killed in a fire that gutted their home and spread to three neighboring houses on Saturday morning, fire officials said.

Friends identified the victims as Jennifer Francis, 18, and Mina Francis, 16, her brother. Their bodies were found on the second floor of their two-story row house at 189 Howe Avenue, according to fire officials.

The mother of the teenagers, Natalie Francis, is a health care worker who was on duty when the fire occurred, neighbors and a relative said. She came home around 8 a.m., unaware of what had happened, according to Deputy Chief Chris Szczygiel of the Passaic Fire Department.

Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said firefighters received a 911 call at 2:07 a.m. About the same time, a neighbor of the Francis family, awakened by a smoke alarm, rushed to a firehouse about 100 yards away.

By 2:09, when the first firefighters arrived at the red brick house, one in a line of four attached row houses, it was already engulfed in flames. About 100 firefighters eventually joined the battle, but at one point the flames were so intense that they had to withdraw, Chief Trentacost said. The four-alarm blaze was declared under control at 6:11 a.m., fire officials said, though pockets of fire burned until noon.

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