• Many survivors are in serious condition, and authorities have warned that the death rate could increase.
  • An apparently malfunctioning space heater caused the five-alarm fire.
  • Although the building has smoke alarms installed, many residents ignored them because they go off so frequently.

NEW YORK — Cleanup crews in white suits cleared debris and trash Monday from the high-rise Bronx apartment building where choking smoke from an accidental blaze a day earlier killed 19 people, including nine children.

Surrounding blocks were closed off Monday, the streets lined with police and fire vehicles. Numerous people were left hospitalized after being affected by the most fatal apartment fire in 40 years. 

Many survivors are in serious condition, and authorities have warned that the death rate could increase. 

The malfunctioning heater in the space heater was apparently what caused the fire that erupted Saturday at the 19th-story building. Fire commissioner Daniel Nigro stated.

Mayor Eric Adams, who described the blaze as one of the “worst fires in modern times,” ordered flags to remain at half staff until sunset Wednesday in remembrance of the victims.

“This is a horrific day for all New Yorkers if not throughout the entire country,” Adams said Monday on “Good Morning America”

We just want to provide the family the support that they need right away.

RESIDENTIAL FIRES ARE NOW DISABLED IN USA Bronx blaze is a reminder how dangerous they can be.

Resident: I was scared to death

Karen Dejesus was 54 years old and lived just a few doors from the fire at the third floor. When the upstairs of her apartment began filling with smoke she started grabbing towels to try to protect her things. 

“Next thing I heard was the firemen breaking my door,” said Dejesus, who climbed out her window on a fire ladder to escape the blaze and smoke. “I was scared to death. “I was holding on to the firefighters. That’s a scary situation, but you have to get out to save your life.”

Dejesus returned to the building Monday morning to try to find out when she would be allowed to return inside. She was allowed to grab a few things Sunday evening and said the third floor was “like a war zone.”

“It was pitch black. There’s water everywhere.”

Dejesus resides in the home for over 18 years. She said the fire alarms went off so regularly that it was like “second nature to us.” But when she started to see the smoke and heard people yelling for help, she realized the fire was real.

“I can see the flames. “I can see smoke entering my apartment. You’re being trapped somewhere,” she said as she described the scene.

Dejesus said her doors didn’t close automatically and she didn’t know whether any of the buildings doors did. 

“I just thank God that I’m here and my family is OK.”

14 apartments were vacated

Andrew Rudansky (spokesman for the City Department of Buildings) stated that a preliminary investigation revealed no evidence of damage to the structure of the building.

However, the agency has issued a partial evacuation order for 14 apartment units on the third floor that have been damaged by fire. Forensic engineers from the agency were at the building on Monday continuing to investigate, Rudansky said.

Five-alarm fire started by space heater

Nigro said the fire “started in a malfunctioning electric space heater” in a bedroom of a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the 19-story Twin Parks North West complex in the West Bronx.

Nigro explained that smoke quickly spread through the building from the open door at the apartment’s entrance. To stop the smoke rising through the buildings, trapped residents broke windows and placed wet towels underneath doors.

The majority of injuries can be attributed to smoke and not flames

Nigro said 63 people were injured by “severe smoke inhalation” and that 32 were admitted to five area hospitals. The flames were confined to two floors, but smoke escaped through the apartment’s open door and darkened stairwells with a thick, unbreathable fog. In order for doors to close themselves, Adams stated in an interview with CNN that Twin Parks had such doors. He said that investigators were trying to figure out why the door didn’t close.

He stated that death could be higher.

Adams stated Monday that “we have many people in critical condition right currently,” on CNN. We pray that they will pull through.

Twin Parks does not have sprinklers, but has smoke alarms

The smoke alarms were installed in the building, however many residents claim they ignore the warnings because the alarms sound so often.

Large, new apartment buildings in the city are required to have sprinkler systems and interior doors that swing shut automatically to contain smoke and deprive fires of oxygen, but those rules don’t apply to thousands of the city’s older buildings.

In 1973, the Twin Parks Complex was created as part of an effort to create affordable and modern housing in Bronx.

THE WAY IT HAPPENED Malfunctioning space heater sparked Bronx fire, city’s deadliest blaze in decades

The Happy Land social club fire was the deadliest since 1990.

The fire was the city’s deadliest since 1990, when 87 people died in an arson at the Happy Land social club, also in the Bronx. That fire, however, was ruled an arson and the man convicted of igniting it, Julio González, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Earlier that day González had a fierce argument with his girlfriend, who worked at the club. Authorities said González, who died in prison, also blocked the club’s only exit.

In 2017, 13 people were killed in a Bronx fire

There was also an apartment building fire that claimed 13 lives in 2017, and another fire that took place in 2007 that resulted from a space heater. Nine people were also killed. In 20188, City Council passed ordinances requiring self-closing doors and child-safety knobs in apartment buildings, hotels, nursing homes and other multiple dwelling units that open into corridors or stairways. In July 2021, self-closing doors were mandatory for all owners.

Tragicity and heroism

Adams said that residents helped each other to safety and showed “who We Are as New Yorkers.” Nigro said firefighters risked their lives as they rushed through the smoke, finding victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest.

“Their oxygen tanks were empty and they still pushed through the smoke,” Adams said.

Owners of building ‘devastated.’ They promise to cooperate in probe

Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC was the owner of the building and issued a statement declaring that they were fully cooperating in the investigation.

The statement stated that “we are devastated at the unimaginable loss in life caused by this terrible tragedy.” We are fully cooperating with the Fire Department, as well as other city agencies in investigating its causes. And we’re doing everything we can for our neighbors. We send our thoughts and support to the family members and friends of all those affected by this tragic fire.

Bacon reported in Arlington, Va. Reporting: Cady Stanton and Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY, The Associated Press

Source: USAToday.com


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