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Deadly fire in Syracuse that killed 6 deemed accident, funeral services will be donated

Investigators have determined the fire that killed six people, including four children, on Syracuse’s north side last week was an accident. But the question as to what started the fire remains.

Officials said unspecified smoking materials were the cause of the fire that started in the front, enclosed porch. They admit they may never know what those smoking materials exactly were, but they combusted with the other objects in the room. What some neighbors perceived as an explosion, investigators believe were the windows on the porch smashing from the high contained heat, which let in oxygen in and propelled the flames.

Syracuse Fire Chief Paul Linnertz said there were no working smoke detectors in the home.

"What was perceived as an explosion was actually the failing of the windows on the front porch due to the super heated gases inside the enclosed porch," Linnertz said. "Those windows failed, introduced oxygen and there was immediate reaction, the fire accelerated. It is indeed frustrating that a smoke detector may have made a difference Friday night, but we’re not sure."

It took anywhere from one to six minutes to make the initial 911 call, which may have contributed to the magnitude of the fire. Firefighters described it as tremendous by the time they arrived on scene, less than four minutes after the initial call.

"The first arriving companies encountered heavy fire conditions," Linnertz said. "The evidence indicates that the volume of fire was attributable to the delay in the reporting of the fire to the 911 center."

A 20-pound propone cylinder was found in the living room, reported by the homeowner to be empty. Linnertz said it was not involved in the cause of the fire.

“I think that our evidence indicates that there was no accelerant other than the contents of the house that caused that,” Linnertz said.

One woman in the home at the time of the fire was able to escape and has been released from a hospital. She was alerted by someone in the home who died in the fire trying to warn the others. 

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner encouraged residents to have working smoke detectors in their home.

“Then that will be one way to make sure that these tragic deaths are not in vain,” Miner said.

Residents in the neighborhood have been leaving balloons, candles and flowers outside of the home in memorial of the victims.

Calling hours for the victims are open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday at the Thomas Pirro Jr. Funeral Home in North Syracuse. All of the funeral services -- including graves, caskets, cremations and calling hours -- will be donated to the victims' families.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.