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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

19 killed, including 9 children, in Bronx apartment fire

David Porter, Bobby Cana Calvan and Michelle L. by price

NEW YORK (AP) — A malfunctioning space heater ignited a high-rise Bronx apartment building with thick smoke Sunday morning, killing 19 people, including nine children, in New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades. Went.

Stranded residents broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under the doors as smoke billowed from a lower-floor apartment where the fire broke out. Survivors said they ran down dark hallways and stairs in panic, barely breathing.

Several lame children were seen giving oxygen after they were thrown out. The faces of those evacuated were covered with soot.

Firefighters Daniel Negro said firefighters found victims on every floor, many of whom were in cardiac and respiratory arrest. He said some people could not escape because of the amount of smoke.

Some residents said they initially ignored smoke alarms because false alarms were so common in a 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. Negro said that most of the victims inhaled the severe fumes.

Mayor Eric Adams said firefighters continued rescue work even after the air supply ran out.

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

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

The flames didn’t spread far—only one unit and the adjoining hallway burned down. But the apartment door and a staircase door were left open, causing the smoke to quickly spread throughout the building, Negro said.

The New York City fire code generally requires apartment doors to be spring-loaded and slam automatically shut, but it was not immediately clear whether this building was covered by those rules.

Building resident Sandra Clayton grabbed her dog Mocha and ran for her life when she saw the hallway filling with smoke and heard people shouting, “Get out! Get out!”

Clayton, 61, said he grabbed Mocha and made his way down a dark staircase. The smoke was so dark that she could not see, but she could hear the cries and cries of the neighbors.

“I just ran as far down as I could, but people were falling over me, screaming,” Clayton told a hospital, where she was treated for inhaling the fumes.

In the commotion, his dog slipped from his grip and was later found dead on the ladder.

About 200 firefighters reacted to the building on East 181 Street at around 11 a.m.

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

“It looks like today, they left but people didn’t notice,” Henriquez said in Spanish.

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He and his family stopped by tying a wet towel under the door, once they realized the smoke in the hall would overwhelm them if they tried to escape.

Luis Rosa said that he also initially thought it was a false alarm. By the time he opened the door to his 13th-floor apartment, the smoke was so thick that he couldn’t see the bottom of the hallway. “So I said, well, we can’t run down the stairs because if we run down the stairs, we’re going to suffocate.”

“We could just wait,” he said.

The mayor’s senior adviser, Stefan Ringel, said the children who died were 16 years of age or younger. Adams told a news conference that many of the residents were originally from the West African country of The Gambia. Several survivors were brought to a temporary shelter at a nearby school.

At the intersection of small, old brick buildings on Webster Avenue, one of the Bronx’s main thoroughfares, stands the monotonous, gray apartment building.

By Sunday afternoon, all that was visible was the unit where the fire broke out, a massive black hole where windows were smashed.

“There’s no guarantee that every apartment, or every common area, has a working fire alarm,” US Rep. Richie Torres, a Democrat who represents the area, told the AP. “Most of these buildings do not have sprinkler systems. And so the Bronx’s housing stock is more vulnerable to devastating fires than most of the city’s housing stock. ,

Negro and Torres both compared the severity of the fire to the 1990 fire at the Happy Land Social Club, where 87 people were killed after a man got into an argument with his ex-girlfriend and was kicked out of the Bronx club building. I was set on fire.

Apart from the September 11 terrorist attacks, the city had the highest death toll in the fire since the Happy Land fire broke out on Sunday.

It was the deadliest fire in a US residential apartment building in years. In 2017, 13 people died in an apartment building in the Bronx, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.

The fire started with a 3-year-old boy playing with a stove burner and it spread because the door of an apartment that did not have a lock was left open. The fire caused many changes in New York City, with the fire department creating a fire safety education plan for children and parents.

Sunday’s fire came just days after a home fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children. In 1989, 16 people lost their lives in a fire in a Tennessee apartment building.

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Associated Press journalist Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon contributed to this report.

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