MALTA — A neighborhood has rallied around a large family forced from their home by a deadly fire Wednesday night.
The blaze claimed the life of Eric Edwards, 32, and sent four other members of the family to the hospital.
"The family has 10 children, all of whom are adopted, and seven of them have profound disabilities and health issues," said Catherine D'Avella Opela, a neighbor whose child goes to school with one of the children who lives in the burned home. She said she has known the family for at least a decade.
"They are the kindest, most gracious people," she said.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said the department received the call at 9:15 p.m., and when emergency responders arrived the garage was fully engulfed in flames.
Zurlo said a sergeant was the first to arrive at 11 Woodshire Court in the Country Knolls neighborhood and helped get multiple residents out of the house.
Edwards was pronounced dead at the scene.
Of the injured family members, Glenn Broadbent Sr., 60, was flown to Westchester Medical Center for treatment of burns and was in critical condition as of Thursday afternoon. Janette Broadbent, 64; Marcus Broadbent, 12; and Lucus Broadbent, 5, suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to Albany Medical Center for treatment.
Marcus Broadbent was also burned and was transferred to Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston. Lucus was in "stable" condition; Janette has been since discharged from the hospital.
Neighbors stepped in to help the family by taking in several of the uninjured children, making meals, accepting clothing donations and launching a GoFundMe account.
D'Avella Opela, who was out of state at the time of the fire, decided to launch the GoFundMe account with a goal of $5,000. By 9 a.m. on Thursday, more than $4,000 had been raised, and by afternoon, the goal had been exceeded.
"I felt like I needed to do something, and this was the one thing I could do from a distance that would have impact," she said. "The outpouring of support from the community has been tremendous."
D'Avella Opela said she would be raising the goal amount for the GoFundMe account.
"I set the limit far too low," she said. "They're going to need everything to start over again, between the medical costs and the cost to rebuild their lives."
Neighbor Diana Wells said she heard the sounds of children on Wednesday night, but thought they were playing basketball in the area. She said it wasn't until she heard popping noises that she decided to step out of her home.
"I've lived here for 40 years, and I've never seen anything like it," she said, describing flames shooting from the Broadbent's garage.
Wells said smoke filled the air in the neighborhood, making it hard to breathe.
According to Wells, the Broadbent family has lived in their Woodshire Court home for nearly 30 years.
"They're very nice people, and there's never been any problems with any of the children," she said. "They are wonderful people for adopting that many children. I hope they're able to rebuild."
Four children who lived in the home were students in the Shenendehowa Central School District, spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani said.
Dillon Broadbent is a seventh-grade student at Gowana Middle School; Glen Broadbent is a 12th-grader at Shen High School; Halle Broadbent is a fifth-grader at Change Elementary School; and Jordan Broadbent is a 10th-grader at Shen High School. DeFeciani said Marcus Broadbent is not a student at Shen.
DeFeciani was not aware of any fundraising or support efforts at any of the district schools as of Tuesday, but she noted it could still be too early for anything to have been organized.
Any efforts in the future focused on the fire would be completely student-led, she said.
Joe Plewinski, captain of the Round Lake Fire Department, said when crews arrived at 9:15 p.m., many of the home's occupants were leaving the home.
"From what we understand, the man who died was bed-ridden, and the mom tried to get him but was overcome by heat and smoke," Plewinski said.
The fire, according to Plewinski, is believed to have started in the garage.
"It was a tough fire, because of the injuries and casualty, but also because it was a very hot night," he said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation by the Saratoga County Cause and Origin Team, with assistance from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department Criminal Investigation Unit and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control. Officials with the Sheriff’s Department said the fire is believed to have been accidental.
The Round Lake Fire Department was assisted by the Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, Jonesville Volunteer Fire Department, Saratoga Springs Fire Department and Ballston Spa Fire Department. EMS agencies included Malta-Stillwater, Clifton Park Halfmoon, Wilton and Life Net 72.
A neighbor is organizing clothing and other material donations for the family and has asked for toddler, children and adult clothing and shoes, as well as new undergarments and socks, towels and toiletries, among other items.
To make a material donation, email [email protected]
Daily Gazette Reporter Kassie Parisi contributed to this story.