A 4-year-old boy accidentally started the house fire Monday afternoon that killed his twin 2-year-old brothers and critically injured their father, fire officials said Tuesday.
Daniel and Nicholas Maine died after the fire was started with a lighter in their bedroom on the first floor of the house at 416 W. Henley St.
Scott Maine, 33, the boys' father, suffered smoke inhalation and burns on more than 50 percent of his body trying to rescue the twins. Maine was listed in serious condition today in the intensive care unit in Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo.
The cause of the boys' deaths was smoke inhalation. The Cattaraugus County attorney ordered authorities not to identify the 4-year-old boy.
Olean Fire Department Capt. Guy Bennett said the boy told investigators that a curtain in the rear bedroom caught fire while he was playing with a lighter. Bennett said the 4-year-old tried to put the fire out by running water from the kitchen to the bedroom, but the fire persisted.
"He then woke Scott Maine, who was asleep at the time," said Bennett.
Maine carried the 4-year-old out of the house and told workers at an elementary school across the street to call 911. Bennett said the Fire Department received several 911 calls at 2:21 p.m., and the first firefighters arrived three minutes later.
Thirty-six firefighters from the Olean department responded along with 25 volunteer firefighters from Westons Mills and Allegany.
Although the fire had been put out by 3:32 p.m., some witnesses said Tuesday the department should have extinguished it more quickly. Olean resident Todd Evans, who was visiting a friend on West Henley Street, said he arrived at the scene before the Fire Department did Monday. He said the department could have done more with the personnel and equipment at the scene.
"They should have used more water power on the house," Evans said. "One hose was not enough."
But Olean Fire Department Capt. Paul Melfi said that since firefighters were able to determine minutes after their arrival that the twins were dead, their focus turned to protecting the houses on either side of the fire.
Heat radiating from the fire damaged the siding on both houses adjacent to the burning two-story frame structure, which had aluminum siding.
Michelle Oliva, who lives next door to the Maines, said she was thankful for the firefighters' effort.
"The Fire Department did a good job. They were concerned about the kids," Mrs. Oliva said.
She said the Maines had built a porch on the front of the house just about a week before the fire. Fresh wood on the front of the porch was the only part of the house that was not visibly charred. Fire officials said the house was valued at $70,000.
Lisa Maine, the boys' mother, was visiting a friend in Cleveland at the time of the fire.
"She was devastated," said Mrs. Maine's father, Frank Ross, who visited the scene Tuesday.
Mrs. Maine operated a beauty salon in the front of the house, and it, too, was destroyed.
"She was a very well-known hairstylist," said neighbor Michelle Blue.
"This has been devastating," Mrs. Blue said. "There just aren't words to describe it."