19 dead, including 9 children, in New York apartment fire – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather forecast
NEW YORK (AP) — A malfunctioning space heater sparked a fire that filled a Bronx apartment building with thick smoke Sunday morning, killing 19 people, including nine children, in the deadliest blaze in history. New York in three decades.
Trapped residents smashed windows to breathe air and stuffed damp towels under doors as smoke rose from a ground-floor apartment where the fire had started. Survivors recounted fleeing in panic through dark corridors, barely able to breathe.
Several lame children were seen receiving oxygen after being executed. The evacuees had their faces covered in soot.
Firefighters found victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest, said fire marshal Daniel Nigro. 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 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 had badly inhaled smoke.
Firefighters continued to perform rescues even after their air supplies ran out, Mayor Eric Adams said.
“Their oxygen tanks were empty and they were still pushing through the smoke,” Adams said.
Investigators said the fire started by the electric heater started in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the 19-story building.
The flames did not spread far – only charring one unit and an adjacent hallway. But the door to the apartment and a door to a stairwell were left open, letting smoke quickly spread throughout the building, Nigro said.
New York City fire codes generally require apartment doors to be spring-loaded and self-closing, but it wasn’t immediately clear if this building fell under those rules.
Building resident Sandra Clayton said she grabbed her dog Mocha and ran away when she saw the hallway fill with smoke and heard people yelling, “Get out! Exit!”
Clayton, 61, said she groped down a dark staircase, hugging Mocha. The smoke was so black she couldn’t see, but she could hear neighbors moaning and crying nearby.
“I just walked down the stairs as much as I could but people were falling on me screaming,” Clayton said from a hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation.
In the uproar, her dog escaped her and was later found dead in the stairwell.
About 200 firefighters responded to the building on East 181st Street 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 left but people didn’t pay attention,” Henriquez said in Spanish.
He and his family stayed, wedging a damp towel under the door, once they realized the smoke in the hallways would overpower them if they tried to flee.
Luis Rosa said he also believed it was a false alarm. By the time he opened the door to his 13th-floor apartment, the smoke was so thick he couldn’t see down the hallway. “So I said, OK, we can’t run down the stairs because if we run down the stairs, we’re going to end up suffocating.”
“All we could do was wait,” he said.
The children who died were 16 or younger, said Stefan Ringel, the mayor’s senior adviser. Adams told a news conference that many of the residents are from the West African nation of Gambia. Many survivors were taken to a 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.
By Sunday afternoon, all that was visible of the unit where the fire had started was a gaping black hole where the windows had been smashed.
“There is no guarantee that there will be a working fire alarm in every apartment or in every common area,” U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat who represents the area, told the AP. “Most of these buildings don’t have a sprinkler system. And so the Bronx’s housing stock is much more susceptible to devastating fires than most housing in the city. »
Both Nigro and Torres compared the severity of the blaze to a 1990 fire at the Happy Land social club where 87 people were killed when a man set the building on fire after an argument with his former girlfriend and being kicked out of the Bronx club.
Sunday’s death toll was the highest for a fire in the city since the Happy Land fire, excluding the September 11 terrorist attacks.
It is also the deadliest fire in a US residential building 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 3 year old boy playing with stove burners and also spread because an apartment door that lacked a locking mechanism was left open. This led to several changes in New York, including having the fire department create a plan to educate children and parents about fire safety.
Sunday’s fire occurred just days after 12 people, including eight children, were killed in a house fire in Philadelphia. In 1989, a fire in an apartment building in Tennessee claimed the lives of 16 people.
Associated Press reporters Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon, contributed to this report.