Candles used in a voodoo sex ceremony ignited a fast-moving fire that swept through a Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment building on the evening of February 19 and into early February 20, 2011, and killed a woman, according to FDNY fire marshals and a city official.
Also, an open door and a delay in calling 911 allowed the fire to get even bigger, the marshals determined, MyFoxNY reports.
"Time and time again we respond to tragedies that could have been so easily prevented," Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said. "This fire had so many of those elements -- candles left on the floor near combustible material, one of the occupants trying to douse the flames before calling 911 and an open door, which allowed fire to spread into the hallway. Hopefully others will learn from this tragedy."
Fire marshals said the fire started around 6:40 p.m., when a woman visited a man in the building and paid him $300 to perform a voodoo ceremony to bring her good luck. The man was known in the neighborhood as a voodoo priest, the AP reported.
A city official told the AP that the ceremony involved the man and woman having sex in a bed surrounded by candles. Those candles set fire to the linens and clothes on the floor, the FDNY said. But instead of calling 911, the man conducting the ceremony tried in vain to douse the flames with water.
Then another person in the apartment opened a window and propped open the front door to in an attempt to vent the smoke, but instead wind gusts of "shot the flames back inside, creating a blowtorch effect as winds whipped in through the open window and pushed fire out into the hallway," according to an FDNY statement.
When the people in the apartment ran out, they left the door open, fire officials said. Flames quickly spread to the fourth, fifth and sixth floors, causing part of the roof and fourth floor to collapse, the FDNY said.
Mary Feagin, 64, who lived on the sixth floor, died in the fire, and at least 20 firefighters and three other people were hurt, the FDNY said.