Twelve people were killed and four were critically injured when a fire tore through a 100-year old Bronx apartment building on December 28. City records show the building, which was built before fireproof construction standards, had an open violation for a defective smoke detector on the first floor, the same floor where the fire began.
“This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter of a century,” New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said at a news conference after firefighters brought the five-alarm fire under control.
“I had one on my front and one on my back,” a woman said, sobbing, after she carried two children out of the fire but had to leave others behind. “I couldn’t carry the rest of them.” https://t.co/lqD3JT4C8s
— Maggie Astor (@MaggieAstor) December 29, 2017
Firefighters were called to the scene at 2363 Prospect Avenue, in the Belmont neighborhood, at 6:51 p.m. and arrived within three minutes. They were able to rescue 12 people from the 29-unit building. More than 160 of them worked for three hours to battle the fire that raged into an inferno fueled by bitterly cold winds. Seven firefighters were injured.
The victims were found on multiple floors of the five-story building, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. The fire spread so quickly, Nigro believes most of the fatalities occurred in the early stages of the fire, some of them even before fire crews arrived on the scene.
Children ages 1, 2, and 7 and a 19-year-old were among those who perished in the blaze. Firefighters found the 1-year-old and 2-year-old in the arms of their mother who also died. She had climbed into the bathtub to protect her children from the flames.
Cause of the Deadly Fire
Fire officials say the fire was started by a three-year-old child playing with a stove in a first-floor apartment. When the flames spread through the kitchen he shouted “Fire!”
Hurrying to get him and his sibling out of the apartment safely, the mother did not close the door. When the fire reached the hallway it roared up the main stairs of the walk up, eliminating a critical exit route. “The stairs acted like a chimney, and took the fire so quickly upstairs that people had very little time to react,” Nigro said at the news conference.
When residents opened their windows to access fires escapes, the influx of outdoor air fueled the fire. There were 20 people waiting on the fire escapes when crews arrived.
“Building owners are responsible for making sure proper safety precautions are in place,” said fire attorney Fred Pritzker, who represents people who have been injured in fires and families who have lost loved ones in wrongful deaths that result from fires. “Too many times we see that these tragedies could have been prevented.”