House fire in upstate NY kills 6 kids, ages 1 to 12, as DNA used to ID victims; cause unknown

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (AP) — Fire investigators in upstate New York scoured the charred wreckage of a two-story house Sunday for clues to a blaze that killed six children aged 1 to 12.

Five people escaped the fire, officials said.

It could take several days before investigators know what caused the fire that swept through the house just after sunrise Saturday.

Officials would not identify the dead children. But Florence Palazzo told The Associated Press that two of her daughters, 12-year-old Hope Palazzo-Smith and 6-year-old Mackenzie Palazzo-Smith, were among the victims.

Relatives said three other victims were children of the two adults injured in the fire: Lewis Carl Smith Jr., who was either 7 or 8; Emillie Smith, 3 and Abigail Smith, who turned 1 year old on Thursday. Also dead was 8-year-old Paige Cox, daughter of the injured woman, according to relatives.

"They were innocent kids," Palazzo said. "None of them deserved this."

The injured adult male, Lewis Carl Smith Sr., and the adult woman were being treated Sunday at Westchester Medical Center. The injured man's aunt said she spoke to him on the phone from the hospital about his anguish.

"He could hear the kids screaming to him, 'Daddy, help me!'" said the aunt, Donna Layton. "It's got to be terrifying to see your kids and not be able to help them."

The acrid smell of charred wood hung over the house Sunday in this careworn village of some 3,000 people along the upper Hudson River, about 45 miles north of Albany. Amid the mound of rubble surrounding the house were remnants of a life: an easy chair, sodden baby's clothing, the blackened, twisted frame of a pullout sofa.

Firefighters described an intensely hot blaze that melted the siding of a neighbor's house 15 feet away. Inside, fresh lumber used the shore up the wrecked building contrasted sharply with the blackened walls. William Cook, director of public safety for Washington County has been a firefighter since 1977 and said "this is probably the worst fire in my memory."

Palazzo said her daughters loved to swim and play soccer and both were involved in Girl Scouts. Hope and Mackenzie had just finished the sixth grade and kindergarten, respectively, and had planned to visit their 16-year-old sister before her birthday party on Saturday.

"They were bright, very intelligent kids. Neither of them looked their age, especially Mackenzie because both of them were really tall," said Palazzo, who separated from Smith four years ago and lives in nearby Lake George.

Cook said he would not identify the victims pending results of autopsies that were being performed at Albany Medical Center. Cook said he didn't know if the house had working smoke detectors and said it was too early to talk about a cause.

"I'm not going to speculate," Cook said, "This is too important a case."

Officials were still trying to figure out how many people lived in the house.

Among the five people who escaped the fire was 5-year-old child Noah Bosford. The boy was staying at the house with his father, Mark Bosford, and the father's girlfriend. The girlfriend shoved an air conditioning unit out a first floor window and pushed Noah to safety. The boy was treated for smoke inhalation.

A single funeral will be held for all six children, Palazzo said