Sisters speak out after surviving fatal house fire in Rochester: ‘It’s all in ashes’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two sisters who survived a fatal house fire on Hague Street Monday morning, were looking out for one another.

“I was sleeping and then she woke me up,” said 8-year-old Cassandra of her 4-year-old younger sister, Sarah. 

 After hearing an alarm, the two ran out of the house. 

“I saw a tiny spot, I got out the door and we told the cops, and we sat on grass so we didn’t go by the house,” Sarah said. 

The sisters left with only the clothes on their backs. 

“They lost everything, I mean the house is totaled,” said Crystal Zastrocky, a family friend who has watched the two girls for years. 

Cassandra and Sarah were two of nine people inside the house when it went up in flames. 

“Everything is gone, it’s all in ashes,” Cassandra said. 

Their biggest loss: a friend. A 12-year-old boy named Chris died after firefighters searched extensively for him. Once they found him, he was brought to the hospital where he passed away. 

According to Mary Cariola Center, Chris was a beloved student at the school. School officials released the following statement on Wednesday:

It is with a profound sense of loss that the students and staff of Mary Cariola Center mourn the tragic death of Christopher, a beloved student at our school. Loss of any life is traumatic, but when it is a child it is all the more devastating to those left behind. The staff who came to know Christopher loved him and enjoyed teaching him during his time at Mary Cariola Center. Counselors will be on campus to talk with staff and Cariola social workers will be reaching out to the family to determine the support that they may need as their home was completely destroyed by fire.

While mourning the loss of the young boy, Zastrocky said she’s thankful many were able to make it out, including her friend’s two girls. 

“It was just devestating not knowing if they were ok other than, ‘hey we’re in the hospital,’ so once I saw them it was good tears because they were safe,” Crystal Zastrocky said. 

Zastrocky says the girls’ mother, Michelle Masterton, is hanging in there. Masterson was not in the house at the time of the fire.

“It’s stressful. She almost lost her girls and they did lose a friend, so I think they are all struggling,” Zastrocky said. “They all have to start over, from scratch and it’s not easy.”

The Rochester Fire Department says while incidents like this don’t happen often, it’s important families make fire escape plans with their kids just in case.  

“Draw a picture of your home, where your bedroom is, and if there is a fire in the house wherever it may it be, the best and easiest way to get out of your home and again if you encounter smoke or heat or fire on your way out, go back to your room, a safe area, close the door and if you have a cellphone or some type of device, call for help and let the fire dispatcher where you are,” said Lt. Jeffrey Simpson with the Rochester Fire Department. 

Zastrocky said in the past she had taught Cassandra and Sarah what to do if there is a fire. 

“They knew to get up and get out, I think parents definitely need to teach that. I have been teaching that since I had them and they did exactly what I told them to do for years,” Zastrocky said. “I am very proud of them.”

Fire officials say the most important thing is making sure fire detectors are working. 

“Your first line of defense is working smoke alarm. That’s your first line. They should be outside every hallway, in every bedroom. That would the ultimate place to have them. We don’t recommend having them in the kitchen area, just because smoke from kitchen, general cooking, is a nuisance so we want to have them in hallways and outside areas where people sleep,” Lt. Simpson said. 

He also said if you are ever in a fire and you can’t get out, there are things you should do. 

“Get to that safe area, open the window. As long as outside that window there is no smoke or heat and fire coming in that window, open the window and start yelling and screaming.. and just make sure people know where you’re at,” Lt. Simpson said. 

Zastrocky said Hope Dealers is taking donations for the girls. She also said people can reach out to her over Facebook. Some things she is hoping for include:

  • Girls clothing: sizes are 14 and 7/8
  • Girls shoes: sizes 11 and 2
  • They are specifically asking for things for this summer, like bathing suits.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The three Rochester police officers who were first to respond to the scene are all currently at home recovering from smoke inhalation. Those officers were able to help rescue a few people that were inside the house before fire crews arrived.

News 8 did get approval from the girls’ mother before putting them on-air.

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