Bronx apartment fire kills 19, including 9 children | News

NEW YORK – A faulty radiator sparked a fire that filled a high-rise apartment building in the Bronx with thick smoke Sunday morning, killing 19 people, including nine children, in New York’s deadliest blaze in three decades.

Trapped residents smashed windows to breathe and stuffed wet towels under the doors as smoke rose from a downstairs apartment where the fire had started. Survivors said they fled in a panic down dark hallways, barely able to breathe.

Several limp children were seen receiving oxygen after their execution. The evacuees had their faces covered with soot.

Firefighters found victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest, Fire Marshal Daniel Nigro said. Some were unable to escape due to the volume of smoke, he said.

Some residents said they initially ignored smoke alarms because false alarms were so common in the 120-unit apartment building, built in the early 1970s as affordable housing.

More than five dozen people were injured and 13 were hospitalized in critical condition. The fire marshal said most of the victims inhaled severely smoke.

Firefighters continued to perform rescues even after their air supply was exhausted, Mayor Eric Adams said.

“Their oxygen tanks were empty and they were still pushing through the smoke,” Adams said.

Investigators said the electric heater fire started in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of a 19-story building.

The flames didn’t spread far – only charring one unit and an adjacent hallway. But the apartment door and a door to a stairwell had been left open, allowing smoke to quickly spread throughout the building, Nigro said.

New York City fire codes generally require apartment doors to be spring loaded and close automatically, but it was not immediately clear whether this building was covered by those rules.

Sandra Clayton, a resident of the apartment building, said she grabbed her dog, Mocha, and ran for her life when she saw the hallway fill with smoke and heard people shouting, ‘Get out! To go out!”

Clayton, 61, said she groped down a dark staircase, hugging Mocha. The smoke was so black that she couldn’t see, but she could hear the neighbors moaning and crying nearby.

“I just walked down the steps as far as I could, but people were running over me screaming,” Clayton said from a hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation.

In the commotion, his dog slipped away and was later found dead in the stairwell.

About 200 firefighters responded to the 181st Street East building around 11 a.m.

Jose Henriquez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who lives on the 10th floor, said the building’s fire alarms would go off frequently but turn out to be false.

“It looks like today they are gone, but people weren’t paying attention,” Henriquez said in Spanish.

He and his family stayed behind, wedging a wet towel under the door, once they realized the smoke in the hallways would swarm them if they tried to escape.

Luis Rosa said he also initially believed it was a false alarm. The moment he opened the door to his 13th floor apartment, the smoke was so thick he couldn’t see the hallway. “So I said, ‘OK, we can’t go down the stairs because if we go down the stairs, we’re going to suffocate eventually. “”

“All we could do was wait,” he said.

The children who died were 16 or younger, said Stefan Ringel, their mayor’s senior adviser. Adams told a press conference that many residents were from the West African nation of The Gambia. Many survivors were taken to temporary shelter at a nearby school.

The drab, brown building towers over an intersection of smaller, aging brick buildings overlooking Webster Avenue, one of the Bronx’s main thoroughfares.

On Sunday afternoon, all that remained visible of the unit where the fire started was a gaping black hole with shattered windows.

“There is no guarantee that there is a working fire alarm in every apartment or in every common space,” US Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat who represents the area, told The Associated Press. “Most of these buildings don’t have sprinkler systems. And so the Bronx housing stock is much more susceptible to devastating fires than most housing in the city. “

Nigro and Torres both compared the severity of the fire to a 1990 fire at the Happy Land social club where 87 people were killed when a man set the building on fire after arguing with his former girlfriend and being kicked out of the Bronx club.

Sunday’s death toll was the highest for a blaze in the city since the Happy Land fire, other than the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was also the deadliest U.S. residential building fire in years. In 2017, 13 people died in an apartment building, also in the Bronx, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.

This fire started with a 3-year-old boy playing with stove burners and also spread because the door to an apartment without a closing mechanism was left open. This led to several changes in New York City, including asking firefighters to create a plan to educate children and parents about fire safety.

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