Updated 01/11/2009 10:55 AM
Suspicious S.I. Fire Kills Two Brothers
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Investigators inspected the charred remnants of a row of houses in Staten Island Saturday evening, after two brothers had died in a suspicious five-alarm fire early that morning.
Seandale Gutter, 27, and Sha-Ron Gutter, 23, died when the fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. at 403 Jewett Avenue in Port Richmond.
The fire engulfed a house that was part of a larger complex and quickly spread to five neighboring homes. Both men were believed to have been upstairs.
About 300 fire crews and emergency personnel responded. Nine firefighters suffered mild injuries but were expected to recover.
“The firemen are very upset right now. Nobody like to lose anybody,” said Fire Lieutenant John Eccleston. “We all feel for the family.”
The smoke and flames could be seen from a half-mile away. Inside, firefighters say they encountered blinding heat and choking smoke as the fire spread from house to house under the adjoining rooftops.
“Probably the worst fire that I've ever seen in my 25 years,” said Eccleston. “Once the fire gets up into that area, it has free travel back and forth, in any direction, so it did travel in both directions.”
The fire is being investigated as suspicious because of how quickly it spread.
“My first thought was, why from the basement to the roof, why was the whole façade of only the one house [burning],” said neighbor Donald Pagano. “It was only the one house, and it was just one big, red firewall of flames.”
Family members say the Gutter brothers were star athletes who often played at the local high school.
"They both were into football, Sha-Ron played in school. Seandale, from what I'm understanding, he was going to church Sunday to get himself together," said childhood friend Sharon Jackson.
Friends say faith is helping them cope.
"We're not promised here. We're only here on time. God's ready for you to come home no matter what form he takes you," said childhood friend Catherine Jackson. "[The brothers are] in a better place, a better place than us right now."
The Red Cross provided blankets to victims left homeless by the blaze.
As of Saturday evening, the cause of the fire was still unknown.