NEW YORK (AP) — The worst fire in more than three decades in New York City killed 19 people, including nine children, in a skyscraper in the Bronx on Sunday.
Flames erupted from apartment windows as smoke filled the building. A resident rescued by firefighters said he would be stunned to sound the alarm because of repeated false alarms.
Stephen Ringel, a senior adviser to Mayor Eric Adams, confirmed the death toll. He said the children killed were 16 years of age or less.
Ringel said 13 people were hospitalized in critical condition. Altogether more than five dozen people were injured. Fire Commissioner Daniel Negro said most of the victims had inhaled serious smoke.
Adams called the fire’s toll “terrible” and said “it is one of the deadliest fires we have seen in modern times.”
“Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were evacuating them in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” Negro said.
About 200 firefighters reacted to the building at East 181 Street at around 11 a.m. on Sunday. Preliminary reports said the fire started on the third floor of the 19-storey building, with flames pouring out of the windows.
News photographers captured images of firefighters entering the upper floors of a burning building on a staircase, several lame children being given oxygen and evacuated with faces covered in soot.
Building resident Luis Rosa said he was woken by a fire alarm on Sunday, but dismissed it at first, thinking it was one of the building’s periodic false alarms. But when a notification came on his phone, he and his mother started worrying.
By then, smoke started rising in their 13th-floor apartment and they heard sirens from afar.
He said he opened the front door, but the smoke was so thick that no one could escape.
“Once I opened the door, I couldn’t look that far down the hallway,” Rosa told the Associated Press. “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 only wait,” he said.
Another resident, Vernesa Cunningham, said she walked home from the church after receiving an alert on her cellphone that the building was on fire.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in shock,” said Cunningham, 60, from a nearby school where some residents had gathered. “I could see my apartment. The windows were all cracked. And I could see flames coming from behind the building.”
Negro said the fire broke out on Sunday in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors. He said firefighters found the apartment door open, which apparently caused the fire to spread quickly and smoke upwards.
Officials said the fire was not being treated as suspicious, but the cause was being investigated.
The 120-unit building in the Twin Park North West complex was built in 1973 as part of a project to create modern, affordable housing in the Bronx.
The monotonous gray building straddles a square of small, old brick buildings facing Webster Avenue, one of the Bronx’s main thoroughfares.
By Sunday afternoon, all that was visible was the unit that caught fire, a massive black hole with windows blown out. The windows were also broken in the apartments up to the 12th floor. The square was packed with police and fire engines, and onlookers were still taking cellphone photos of the structure as darkness fell.
“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.
The city had the highest death toll in the fire since the Happy Land fire broke out on Sunday. It was also the deadliest U.S. residential apartment building fire since 2017, when 13 people died in an apartment building in the Bronx, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.
The fire began with a 3-year-old boy playing with a stove burner and led to changes in several laws in New York City, including a plan for the fire department to educate children and parents about fire safety, and some residential buildings. Includes the need to install. self closing doors.
Sunday’s fire came just days after a home fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children. The deadliest fire before that was in 1989 when a fire in a Tennessee apartment building killed 16 people.