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March 23, 2009 - 4 Residents Killed in Fire at Group Home

An early morning fire Saturday killed four residents of a group home for the mentally or developmentally disabled in upstate New York, officials said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said the blaze started in the back of the one-story Riverview Individualized Residential Alternative home in Wells, the Albany Times Union reported. The NYCLU said the fire appeared to be electrical and the sprinkler system was "knocked out immediately."

Officials said nine residents and two staff members were in the building when the fire began at about 5:30 a.m. EDT. Two residents and the staffers were hospitalized because of injuries, while the other surviving residents were transferred to another group home.

Five of the residents, including two of the dead, were plaintiffs in a landmark class-action 1972 suit over conditions at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, N.Y., the NYCLU reported.

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