Fire Kills One; Family and Neighbors Mourn

By Matt Markham

March 17, 2011 Updated Mar 18, 2011 at 7:21 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A criminal investigation is underway involving a fire which killed 17-year-old Jeffrey Aissa.

Firefighters got the call to 20 Milford Street about 3:30 this morning.

The house was engulfed in flames.

Meanwhile, a call for another fire came in just blocks away at 5 Gaylord Street.

Investigators say they have some work ahead of them.

"With something as tragic as this and with this much destruction, it's going to take a while to sift through and do our interviews and all of that, so we won't have a cause for a while," said Binghamton Fire chief Dan Thomas.

"Two fires at 3:30 in the morning, within a few blocks of each other, is both highly suspicious to both us and the fire department," said Binghamton police chief Joseph Zikuski.

The damage was much worse to 20 Milford to the degree that the burnt structure had to be torn down for safety reasons.

While investigators try to figure out how the fire started, neighbors are trying to make sense of the tragedy.

A family is mourning the loss of one of its own after this fire. But if there's one glimmer of grace in this story, it's the heroes who saved the people who did make it out.

"I saw the whole front porch...it was like something I never saw before in my life. All the flames covered...complete...it was scary," said Margarita Southee, who knew the family.

Margarita Southee sat on her porch hours after fire tore through the house across the street.

She and her whole family knew the family inside.

"We've been here probably almost thirty years in this neighborhood, so we do tend to know people and take care of the neighbors," said Miguel Southee Sr.

That care became instinct when Miguel and his son rushed to save the people trapped on top of the back porch trying to escape.

"Me and my father found a ladder, put it on the back porch, and tried to get as many people out of there as we could," said Miguel Southee Jr.

"All you feel is the heat of the flames when you're running past it, but you don't even think about it. You just think about the people who were in there, trying to get out," said Miguel Jr.

"There wasn't a lot of time. We got over there, it was spreading really fast," said Miguel Sr.

Miguel, his son, and a police officer on the scene were able to get six people out of the house.

"The officer went up, the other girl was hanging off the gutter and the officer was able to get up the ladder, get a hold of her, and ger her down," said Miguel Sr.

What was once a home is now reduced to ruin and what were once just neighbors and friends are now life-savers.

But hearts are broken over the one who didn't escape the fire.

"You can replace a home, but you can't replace a child," said Margarita.

One of the girls who escaped the home was admitted to Lourdes Hospital for observation.

Friends of the family tell Action News everyone else is okay, though shaken up, and is being helped by the Red Cross.