17 killed in New York City’s deadliest fire in decades
Seventeen people, including eight children died in a fire at a Bronx apartment in New York City in the US on Sunday, 9 January 2022. Dozens more were injured in the worst NYC fire in 30 years. More than 200 fire fighters responded to the scene of the five-alarm fire that originated Sunday morning in a duplex apartment on the third floor of a high-rise building, located in the Tremont section of the Bronx, officials said. More than 60 people were injured in the fire, according to the Fire Department New York (FDNY). Eight children were among those who died when a space heater malfunctioned in a Bronx apartment building, city officials said. Dozens were injured after getting trampled in rush to escape. Fire fighters arrived on the scene within three minutes of the initial 911 call.
The five-alarm fire erupted shortly before 11h00am on the third floor of a 19-storey building at 333 East 181st Street in Fordham Heights. The fire started in a duplex apartment of the fireproof multiple dwelling and the building's fire alarm system was triggered immediately. The fire apartment door was left open by fleeing occupants, which turned the public hall into an IDLH. The apartment across from the fire apartment's door was also left open. All doors are reported to be self-closing but did not function during the fire. A heavy smoke condition was found on all floors above the fire, which lead to numerous civilians overcome, especially on upper floors.
The fire was contained to the fire apartment, the public hallway and the apartment across from.
Smoke alarms were operable and it remains under investigation how the smoke travelled so far so quickly.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Sunday's blaze was the city's worst fire disaster since the infamous Happy Land arson in 1990 and the initial death toll confirms it will be recorded among the city's deadliest fires ever.
The fire was caused by a space heater in a bedroom, which was being used to supplement the heat in the building that did have functioning fire alarms, Daniel Nigro, New York City Fire Department Commissioner, said. Fire fighters found people 'on every floor, in stairways,' said Commissioner Nigro, praising his team for continuing to work despite running out of air. The fire never left the hallway on the floor where it originated, he said.
Mayor Adams also praised the fire fighters who ran out of air yet continued to rescue people and said that many of those living in the building were immigrants from Gambia.
The 19-storey building was built in 1972 and has 120 units, according to city records.
The residents consisted of a largely Muslim and Gambian population and will be aided by the city with particular consideration to cultural needs, Adams said.
Glenn Corbett, a fire science professor at John Jay College in New York City, said closed doors are vital to containing fire and smoke, especially in buildings that do not have automatic sprinkler systems. “It’s pretty remarkable that the failure of one door could lead to how many deaths we had here but that’s the reality of it,” Corbett said. “That one door played a critical role in allowing the fire to spread and the smoke and heat to spread vertically through the building.”
The Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, the name of the joint venture that owns building at 333 E 181st Street, said in a statement that it was "devastated" over the tragedy that occurred. "We are devastated by the unimaginable loss of life caused by this profound tragedy," the statement read. "We are cooperating fully with the Fire Department and other city agencies as they investigate its cause, and we are doing all we can to assist our residents. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured and we are here to support them as we recover from this horrific fire."
A total of 73 people died in New York City fires in all of 2021.
This was the second major fire in the Bronx over the weekend. A four-alarm fire in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx that began early Saturday morning injured a fire fighter and displaced three families. A lithium-ion battery sparked the fire, officials said.
Last week, a fire that broke out on the second storey of a row house in Philadelphia killed 13 people, including seven children.
Sources: Fire Department New York City, ABC News, Daily Mail