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Update: Investigation continues into Rensselaer fatal fire

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UPDATE: The fire has been ruled accidental and electrical in nature, according to police. Investigators say that there were smoke detectors in the home, however they are still working to see if they were functional.


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RENSSELAER, NY (WRGB) Investigators spent hours on Mann Avenue Monday at a home where police said Aymen Alshami, 8, lived with his mother and father, grandmother, teenage brother and sister.

Police said that Aymen, his mother Monzalah Alshami, 41, and grandmother Safia Alblakhi, 68, were killed when fire tore through their home Sunday morning.

Rensselaer Police Detective Scott Earing said the 17-year-old son was able to escape and run for help. His mother initially made it out of the home as well.

"Once outside the mother went inside to try and get to her family and never returned," said Detective Earing.

He said that when firefighters arrived they had to go in through a window to pull everyone out. A volunteer firefighter and student resource officer who both live nearby got to the home even before fire crews could. They tried to help the family.

"The two of them, my understanding, tried to make entry into the home at every location they could and couldn't get in due to the heat and fire," said Detective Earing.

Detective Earing said the that 17-year-old boy is at Albany Medical Center in the ICU, but is expected to be ok. His 16-year-old sister is in critical condition in a Syracuse burn unit, according to police. Their father was at work when the fire happened.

Sunday evening, Rensselaer City School Superintendent Sally Shields gathered with dozens of others to show the survivors they aren't alone.

"They were a gentle family, smart students, quiet students, just gentle, gentle people," said Superintendent Shields.

The school district opened an hour late Monday to give staff and teachers time to talk about how to help students process this grief. Counselors were available, and the district sent information home to parents about how they could help their children as well. The district also sent CBS6 News these links for additional resources:

http://www.rensco.com/departments/mental-health/

https://www.communityhospice.org/services/grief-support/

Detective Earing said the investigation into where and how the fire started is still underway. He said figuring out if smoke detectors were inside the home and if they worked will be part of that investigation.

"We were told there are. We are uncertain at this time if they were working. They were believed to have been there and working," said Detective Earing.

A GoFundMe page has been set up. Community members are also planning a fundraiser for Sunday, March 18th at the Boys & Girls Club.

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