Harlem apartment fire kills a whole family of six, US
A fire that began in the kitchen of a fifth-floor Harlem apartment killed a family of two adults and four children overnight on Wednesday, 8 May 2019, New York City officials said. Police responded to a 911 call of a fire at about 1h40 early on Wednesday morning at the Frederick Samuel Houses in Harlem on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard. After fire fighters put out the blaze, responding officers found six people unconscious and unresponsive in the rear bedrooms, police said.
Emergency responders pronounced six people dead at the scene, including a 45-year-old woman and a 33-year-old man. Two girls ages 11 and six and two boys ages eight and three were also dead.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lamented the death of the entire family at midday on Wednesday and said they would investigate the incident further. "This is a gut-wrenching moment for all of us," de Blasio said. "At this point, all signs point to a horrible, terrible accident."
Three others suffered minor smoke inhalation and were taken to area hospitals, said Brian Fitzgerald, spokesperson for FDNY. Not all of the tenants were displaced, and the Red Cross was called to the scene. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that when fire fighters arrived the fire stretched out the windows on two sides of the building. The bodies were found in two bedrooms in the six-room apartment. The fire began in the kitchen and eventually spread to every room in the apartment, Nigro said. The kitchen is the closest room to the front door and the fire escapes were on the opposite end of the apartment from the rear bedroom, so the family was not able to get to an escape, Nigro said.
New York City Housing Authority interim chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia said the housing complex had 62 units and 129 families. The smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in this apartment was most recently tested in January.
FDNY released video on Wednesday afternoon showing the charred and destroyed remains of the apartment.
The cause of the fire will be determined by the city's fire marshal but there does not appear to be any signs of criminality, police said.
Eric Allen, a neighbour who has lived in the building for more than 10 years, said he and his wife smelled smoke early on Wednesday. When he went out to see what was going on, he saw the floors above him on the opposite section were on fire, so he got his wife and children and evacuated the building. "It could easily have been us in that apartment," he said.
Almost all of the apartment building tenants were standing out front, including some who were half-dressed. After about half an hour, he could see that fire fighters were putting the fire out, he said. Allen said he remembered seeing the family of six around the building and that their kids interacted with his kids. "When I (saw) them, they were always happy," he said about the kids, "and definitely polite. They were always polite."
He said the family had lived in the building for at least five years. "You would see the family come and go, and you're not gonna see them anymore," he said. "It's such a horrific event, you can't imagine anything like that."
New York City Fire Department (FDNY) said in their statement, “At approximately 1h40, we received a call from an occupant on the sixth floor of the building across the street reporting fire out of the windows. Our units responded in three minutes. We were met with fire at the large fifth floor corner apartment. The entire apartment was involved. Our members aggressively moved in extinguishing the fire. When they reached the two rear bedrooms, they found six occupants of that apartment deceased, four children and two adults. As aggressive as the members could be, they were not able to reach those occupants. This fire didn’t go under control for over an hour. We had approximately 100 members on the scene. It is never easy. We are in the business of saving lives and in this instance we were not able to. It is very difficult to deal with this loss and our hearts are with the friends and family of the deceased,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro earlier this morning from the scene of an all-hands fire at 2441 7th Avenue in Manhattan.
New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and CNN