Created: 10/29/2013 11:47 AM WHEC.com
By: Associated Press
A couple and their two adult children died in an early morning blaze Tuesday that raged through a two-story multi-dwelling house in Westchester County, authorities said.
The fire appeared to have started when a car parked in the back of the house caught fire.
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis said the fire commissioner told him a car parked at the back of the house caught fire and ignited the building, and people were unable to escape from their basement apartment.
Authorities did not know why the car caught fire, he said.
"One person was on the staircase trying to get out but was engulfed in the fire," Davis said. "There were locks that should not have been there." He said the city's buildings department would investigate.
The other victims were found elsewhere in the basement, said Deputy Fire Chief John Battista.
A relative identified the dead as Alcedo Urena, in his 50s, his wife Nancy, 39, and their children, Jesus, 21, and Mariselis, 18.
Jose Brito, a nephew of Urena, said the couple's third child survived the fire.
He said his uncle had lived in the United States for a long time but that his wife and children arrived from the Dominican Republic a few years ago.
"My cousin called me around 5 a.m. and told me what was going on," he said of the fire. "I couldn't believe it. ... When I saw my mother crying it hit me. I saw everybody crying, and it got to me."
"It was the family in this neighborhood that everybody would go visit," Brito said of the Urenas. "They were always cooking and making coffee for everybody."
Relatives outside the house wailed as they watched the fire burn.
"We had fire all around us. Fire out the rear. Every entrance to the basement was covered in flames," said Battista, adding that the door from the first floor to the basement was locked, and firefighters had to use tools to break in.
The house, on a residential street of the city just north of the Bronx, sustained heavy damage up to the top floor. The back of the house was blackened, and the windows and doors were gone.
Three families lived in the house, each occupying one floor, said Abigail Adams, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, which was assisting the families that lived on the top floors: two adults with one child and two adults with two children.
One civilian and three firefighters suffered non-life threatening injuries in the fire, which erupted at 3:30 a.m. and was brought under control nearly six hours later.
Richard Fernandez, 16, Alcedo Urena's grandson, said when his family got a call about the blaze "we were just hoping they were all alive."
"Now all we have are memories. There was nothing we could do but cry," he said.
His grandfather "was a fun guy to be around," Fernandez said.