A Bronx apartment building fire that left 19 dead and at least 63 people injured was caused by a malfunctioning electrical space heater, authorities confirmed.
The fire began Sunday (January 9) shortly after 11 a.m. and is being described by NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro as one of the worst in modern history.
Nine children were among those killed in the fire, while 32 people were hospitalized with “severe smoke inhalation,” Nigro said during a news conference. Authorities are investigating the building’s fire alarms and concerns for safety are being raised in the second major deadly fire in the Northeast within a week.
“This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city of New York, and the impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of just pain and despair in our city,” Mayor Eric Adams said.
Adams said many of the tenants in the building are from a predominantly Muslim community, with many immigrants from Gambia.
The five-alarm fire first consumed the bedroom, then the entire duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the 19-floor building, Nigro said.
“The heat was on in the building. This (space heater) was being used to supplement the building heat. There were smoke alarms throughout the building. The first call that came in was due to a neighbor hearing the smoke alarm and looking and seeing the smoke and calling,” the commissioner explained.
When residents left the unit, the door was left open, allowing the smoke to spread.
“The smoke spread throughout the building, thus, the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives right now in hospitals all over the Bronx,” Nigro said.
“So we are investigating where everyone was found, how the smoke traveled, but certainly the marshals have determined through physical evidence and through firsthand accounts by the residents that this fire started in the bedroom, in a portable heater.”
Fire department personnel “found victims on every floor in stairways,” Nigro said.
An estimated 200 firefighters responded within three minutes on the scene, some of whom ran out of air while trying to get as many people out as possible.
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