3 young children, woman killed in Utica fire

Deadly fire, Schuyler Street, Utica / Courtesy: Jim Kenyon

Authorities have released the names of the 31-year-old mother and her three young sons who were killed when a fire tore through their Utica duplex earlier this week.

The Utica Police Department on Tuesday evening confirmed the identities of Leida Santiago, 1-year-old Sebastian Rolon, 2-year-old Matias Rolon and 4-year-old Julius Rolon.

They died in Monday morning's fire at the family's 2 1/2-story duplex on Utica's west side. Santiago's 9-year-old daughter was at school when the fire broke out.

Utica fire officials say the blaze started on the building's first floor. All four victims were found on the second floor.

Fire Chief Russell Brooks says smoke detectors in the home are being tested to determine if they were working at the time.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing.

Monday evening update:

Monday evening, police and fire officials were still on the scene at 900 Schuyler Street investigating a fatal fire that left 3 young children and their mother dead. Utica Fire Chief Russel Brooks says the fire started on the first floor of the home, and quickly spread.

Firefighters were forced to pull back because of the intense flames, and fight the fire from outside. A move that was incredibly difficult for firefighters, knowing there could be victims inside waiting to be saved. Monday night, fire officials went through a debrief to help them deal with the rollercoaster emotions they are going through after today's heartbreaking fire. "These types of fires are very tragic. The stress debriefing, talking about it, it doesn't relieve the amount of grief you feel," said Utica Firefighter Dan Knapp. "They stay with you your whole life they don't go away."

Outside the charred home, the start of a memorial for the victims as family, friends and neighbors dropped off flowers and teddy bears.

We are still waiting for officials to release the names of the victims.

Read below for our previous coverage of the story.

Original story from Monday morning:

"It's a tragic day here in West Utica."

Those are the words of the Utica fire chief as a mother and her three children were killed in a fire Monday morning.

Sgt. Steve Hauck of the Utica Police Department confirms the fatalities to CNY Central. We're told the victims are an infant, 2-year-old and 4-year-old children along with their mother. A fourth child in the family was at school at the time of the fire and is safe.

The fire broke out in a 2 1/2-story duplex around 9:30 a.m. along the 900 block of Schuyler Street.

A police officer was first to arrive at the scene. Utica Police Chief Mark Williams says that officer had to be taken away from the scene after not being able to save the people inside.

When firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke and flames shooting out of the first and second floors. Firefighters were thwarted in their first attempt to search the building when a staircase collapsed. Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks says firefighters used hoses to push the flames to the rear of the building and conducted a second search.

"I personally believe they were all victims of the fire before we arrived," said Brooks.

The fire was doused shortly before 10:00 a.m. The last of the four victims was removed from the building a half-hour later. A cause and origin team is going through the rubble trying to determine what sparked the flames. The victims' names have not yet been released, and there is no word yet on the cause of death. Fire officials say when the house was inspected a year ago, there were working smoking detectors, but it's too early to say what caused the fire.

Two cousins of the woman whose identity is being withheld talked to CNY Central's Jim Kenyon. Tiffany Wilson said the family is torn up. "It's horrible that happened. Three beautiful baby boys, and she was a beautiful person."

Wilson said she was a great mother who was always trying to take care of her kids. Ida Redner says, "She stayed there and tried to get her kids out. She wouldn't leave the house without her kids."

John Rinner, who used to live nearby, told the Utica Observer-Dispatch the family moved into the neighborhood about two months ago.

Bystanders looked on as firefighters fought the blaze, which heavily damaged the left front and back halves of the structure, which was built in 1910, according to the Observer-Dispatch.

A group of sobbing people was escorted away from the scene by police.

Greg Maddox, 18, was visiting a relative on the same block when firefighters were searching for the victims. He said he often saw the children playing outside.

"The saddest thing was when they brought out the baby," Maddox told the newspaper.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.