'I saw Dad running back into the fire to save them'

Teen survivor of tragic Brooklyn house fire recalls father's attempts to save family. 'I tried to go inside, but everything was burning.'

David Rosenberg ,

Azan family photo
Azan family photo
Courtesy of the family

When a fire ripped through the Azan family home in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn early Monday morning, 13-year-old Avraham, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah earlier this year in Israel, was the only member of the Azan family to escape unscathed. Now, he’s the only member of the immediate family observing the traditional seven-day mourning period.

Four people were killed in the blaze, including Avraham’s mother, 39-year-old Aliza Azan; Avraham’s brothers, 11-year-old Moshe and 7-year-old Yitzchak; and Avraham’s 3-year-old sister Henrietta.

Of the surviving four, only Avraham managed to escape without injury. His father, 45-year-old Joseph ‘Yosi’ Azan, was critically injured, suffering burns and smoke inhalation. The family’s 16-year-old daughter, Shilat, and 15-year-old son, Daniel, were also seriously injured.

While meeting with relatives after the tragedy, Avraham recalled the terrifying moments early Monday morning, and how his father risked his life to save his children.

“I told him [Avraham] to be strong,” a relative of the Azan family said, Behadrei Haredim reported.

“He replied to me that ‘I’m not ready to be strong. I can’t believe that this happened, this just can’t be.’”

“My cousin and I were sleeping downstairs, and I was awakened by the smell [of the fire]. I heard shouting from the floor above. I ran outside from the backdoor, and it [the fire] didn’t look serious. When I went around to the front of the house, I saw that it had all gone up in flames. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have my glasses, and I was half asleep.”

Investigators say the fire was caused by an unattended menorah, which had been left to burn in front of a window on the first floor. The heat caused the glass oil holders to shatter, splashing burning out and sparking the deadly blaze.

New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that the father, Joseph Azan, heroically tried to save his family from the fire, running back into the house to pull his children from the building, while suffering smoke inhalation and burns which nearly cost him his life.

Nigro told reporters that Azan "was severely burned trying to get back in to save the rest of his family, the ones that he didn’t already save. We believe that he acted very courageously and tried desperately.”

“Hopefully it didn’t cost his life also, but it may.”

Avraham Azan recalled his father’s valiant efforts to rescue those trapped on the second story of the house.

“I went back into the house and I saw my father running up and down, shouting. I went outside again – I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I tried to find my glasses, and looked into the house and saw my father pushing the children from the window, since they refused to jump. I tried to go back inside, but I couldn’t, the whole house was ablaze.”

Joseph Azan managed to save his two oldest children, Shilat and Daniel, by pushing them out from a second story window. All three are being treated at Staten Island University Hospital.