UTICA — Seven years after a fatal James Street fire, the city of Utica has agreed to settle one lawsuit brought by relatives of the victims.

Family members of Bruce Bush, Douglas Crane, Glenard Drake Jr. and Terry Singh filed at least two suits against the city in the years after a fire tore through their apartment building Sept. 20, 2009, according to O-D archives. All four victims — ranging in age from 24 to 44 — died of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation, officials said at the time.

UTICA — Seven years after a fatal James Street fire, the city of Utica has agreed to settle one lawsuit brought by relatives of the victims.

Family members of Bruce Bush, Douglas Crane, Glenard Drake Jr. and Terry Singh filed at least two suits against the city in the years after a fire tore through their apartment building Sept. 20, 2009, according to O-D archives. All four victims — ranging in age from 24 to 44 — died of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation, officials said at the time.

On Aug. 23, the Common Council authorized Corporation Counsel William Borrill to settle with the estates of Bush, Crane and Drake for “alleged damages” outlined in their civil rights suit, which has been pending since at least 2013. A settlement payment of $300,000 was approved at the same time.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs in Bush v. City of Utica claimed the victims’ constitutional right to equal protection was violated by the city, and accused the Utica Fire Department of “purposely and maliciously withholding protective services from (the victims) because they lived in a low-income neighborhood.”

Both the city and Fire Chief Russell Brooks were named as defendants in the suit. City officials declined to comment on the settlement, however, due to ongoing litigation.

"There is still open litigation concerning this incident and our official status is we’re not going to comment on pending litigation,” Assistant Corporation Counsel Zach Oren said.

While several people were successfully rescued from the building at 102 James St. during the fire, fire officials said they were unable to access the rear portion of the building despite several attempts, in part due to a sprinkler system that was out of order, according to a court order from U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd.

Witnesses for the plaintiffs, however, said a rear staircase was passable when firefighters arrived and that firefighters “appeared to be in ‘slow motion’ and ‘seemed like they didn't care,’” the court document states.

In the May 31 order dismissing the city’s request for a summary judgment in the case, Hurd stated that “numerous factual disputes” between the two sides in the lawsuit could not be resolved based on the initial filings.

A trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 7.

Contributing: S. Alex Gerould, Micaela Parker, Courtney Potts