Investigators believe an electrical short was to blame for a fire Tuesday night that engulfed a bedroom and killed two small children in the settlement of Beitar Illit, authorities said Wednesday.
Efrat Ginsburg, 4, and her brother Tzvi Ginsburg, 2, were both killed in the apartment fire, and eight others were lightly to moderately wounded.
The siblings were buried Wednesday afternoon in a small private funeral.
The fire “definitely was not caused by arson. We believe an electric short, either from a ceiling light or a nightlight, ignited the fire,” Dedi Simchi, the head of the fire rescue service, told the Hadashot news channel Wednesday as an investigation into the cause of the blaze continued.
Fire official Lahav Avi Ben Sedon told the Ynet news site that the fire likely started in the children’s’ bedroom, a reinforced concrete room that doubles as a bomb shelter. The room was located at the furthest point from the entrance to the apartment, which was not fitted with smoke detectors.
Though firemen rushed into the burning apartment to try to find the children, another fire official told the news site that the two were likely dead by the time rescuers arrived.
“The children were no longer alive by the time the fire services arrived — the scene was full of flammable objects,” he said. “Within a short time there was very thick smoke and a lot of heat.”
The fire brigade has denied eyewitness claims that it took too long for fire trucks to arrive at the scene, saying that the initial call was received at 9:08 p.m. and the first team arrived on the scene at 9:13 p.m.
Video from the scene showed neighbors attempting to put out the blaze, already raging, by shooting water from a nearby balcony.
According to reports, the parents had left the apartment for the evening and the children were under the supervision of a 12-year-old sister. Three children managed to flee to a neighbor’s apartment for safety.
The fire broke out on the second floor of the five-story building.
Rescuers appear to have struggled to identify the source of the fire and initially focused their efforts on the three children who were trapped behind bars on a balcony, before later realizing that the epicenter of the fire was elsewhere and two small children were trapped.
“Fire fighting teams quickly reached the site to rescue people and treat the wounded. To our sorrow they discovered two fatalities,” Simchi said.