By DAVID PORTER, BOBBY CAINA CALVAN and MICHELLE L. PRICE
NEW YORK (AP) — A malfunctioning space heater sparked a fire that filled a Bronx apartment building with thick smoke, killing 19 people including nine children Sunday in New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire “started in a malfunctioning electric space heater” in an apartment unit spanning the second and third floors of the 19-story building. The door of the apartment was left open, allowing smoke to quickly spread throughout the building, Nigro said.
Some residents, trapped in their apartments, broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under their doors. One man rescued by firefighters said he’d become numb to fire alarms because of frequent false alarms.
Some residents “could not escape because of the volume of smoke,” Nigro said. Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said, calling it “unprecedented.”
Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to Mayor Eric Adams, said the children killed were 16 years old or younger. Many of the building’s residents were originally from the West African nation of Gambia, Adams said, and there was a large Muslim community.
Thirteen people remained hospitalized in critical condition, Ringel said. In all, more than five dozen people were hurt. Most of the victims had severe smoke inhalation, Nigro said. Adams called the toll “horrific.”
Approximately 200 firefighters responded to the building on East 181st Street around 11 a.m. Sunday.
News photographers captured images of firefighters entering the upper floors of the burning building on a ladder, multiple limp children being given oxygen after they were carried out and evacuees with faces covered in soot.
Building resident Luis Rosa said he was awakened Sunday by a fire alarm, but dismissed it at first, thinking it was one of the building’s periodic false alarms.
But when a notification popped up on his phone, he and his mother began to worry. By then, smoke began wafting into his 13th-floor apartment and he heard sirens in the distance.
He opened the front door, but the smoke had gotten too thick for an escape, he said.
“Once I opened the door, I couldn’t even see that far down the hallway,” Rosa told The Associated Press. “So I said, OK, we can’t run down the stairs because if we run down the stairs, we’re going to end up suffocating.”
“All we could do was wait,” he said.
Another resident, …read more
Source:: Dailynews – News