Nine children were killed, while 63 people were injured by “severe smoke inhalation”, of which 32 were sent to five hospitals in the district in life-threatening condition, fire marshal Daniel said on Sunday. Nigro at a press conference.
“This is a horrible, horrible and painful time for New York City, and the impact of this fire is really going to bring a level of pain and desperation to our city,” said Mayor Eric Adams. He described the displaced as belonging to a predominantly Muslim community, with many immigrants from the West African nation of The Gambia.
The five-alarm fire started shortly before 11 a.m. ET and consumed the bedroom first and then the entire duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the 19-story building, Nigro said.
“The heating was on in the building. This (the radiator) was used to supplement the heating of the building. There were smoke detectors throughout the building. The first call that came in was from a neighbor hearing the smoke detector and looking and seeing the smoke and calling, ”he said.
When residents left the burning unit, the apartment door was left open, allowing smoke and fire to spread, Nigro said. At least one door was also open from the stairwell to an upper story, he said.
“The smoke has spread throughout the building resulting in the enormous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives right now in Bronx hospitals,” he said. “So we are investigating where everyone was found, how the smoke spread, but the commissioners have certainly determined through physical evidence and first-hand testimony from residents that this fire started in the room. , in a portable electric heater. “
Daisy Mitchell, a 10th floor resident who had just moved into the building, was one of those who fled to safety. She told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that her husband first smelled smoke and noticed the fire.
“The alarm went off for a while, so I didn’t pay attention,” she said. “Then when he opened the door and I walked out I passed out – it was devastating, it was really scary.”
“I went up the stairs, I opened the door, it just blew me up [to] home, “she added.” If I had been there three more seconds, I would have left too. “
About 200 FDNY members responded to the fire at 333 East 181st Street, the agency said. The units arrived at the scene within three minutes of the emergency call, Nigro said. They “found victims on every floor of the stairs,” he said, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest.
“It was a very difficult job for our members. Their air tanks contained a certain amount of air – they ran out of air, a lot of our members – and they kept working to try to squeeze out so much. people as possible, ”he said.
Fire alarms and self-closing doors under investigation
Investigators are looking at potential issues with fire alarms and self-closing doors designed to contain fire and smoke.
“So when you don’t know it’s a fire, like, you know, how would you know if it’s a fire or if it’s still going out?” Hunter said, adding that she received a call from a resident on the third floor warning her of the fire, then a knock on her door told her and her family to get out.
Reports of frequent smoke detector malfunctions will be investigated, Nigro said, adding that he could not confirm them.
The building did not have fire escape stairs, but “there are interior stairs,” he said. “So residents should know where the stairwells are, and I think some of them couldn’t escape due to the volume of smoke.”
“We have a law here in New York that requires doors to close automatically,” he said. “We also want to dub that public service announcement that I remember as a kid… close the doors,” he said.
There have been no major building violations or complaints against the building, which contains 120 units, according to city building records. Past minor violations have been rectified by the facility and no structural violations have been identified.
Built in 1972, the building was federally funded, so it may have been built outside of New York City’s fire code, Nigro said, adding that it was unlikely he was a factor in Sunday’s fire.
“Some federal buildings may be constructed to different standards. But to be perfectly clear, the fire itself – other than entering the lobby because the door was open – never spread anywhere else in the building, so it didn’t. so was not a factor. “
Residents of the building were initially housed at a nearby college, and longer-term shelter would be found for them, said Christina Farrell, New York’s first deputy emergency management commissioner.
Low-income areas face higher fire risk, official says
The “tragic and terrifying” fire underscores the need for a federal investment in affordable housing, said Congressman Ritchie Torres, who represents the residents of the building.
“Many of these buildings are old. Not all apartments have a fire alarm. Most of these buildings do not have a sprinkler system. The risk of fire is therefore much higher in low-income neighborhoods. income from the Bronx than it is elsewhere in the Bronx, city or country, “Torres told MSNBC.
“When we allow our affordable housing developments to fall prey to decades of divestment, we put lives at risk. These buildings are widely exposed to catastrophic fires that can claim the lives of people, including the lives of children. ”
The apartment staircase acted “like a fireplace,” and the fire quickly spread through the building, Nigro said at the time. After this fire, the city passed the law on automatic closing doors.
CNN’s Alaa Elassar, Sarah Fortinsky, Elizabeth Joseph, Eric Levenson, Artemis Moshtaghian, Liam Reilly, and Laura Studley contributed to this report.