19 died, dozens of injured after fire hits building in NYC
A malfunctioning space heater sparked a fire that filled a high-rise Bronx apartment building with thick smoke Sunday morning, killing 19 people including nine children in New York City’s deadliest blaze in three decades. Trapped residents broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under doors as smoke rose from a lower-floor apartment where the fire started. Survivors told of fleeing in panic through darkened hallways, barely able to breathe.
Multiple limp children were seen being given oxygen after they were carried out. Evacuees had faces covered in soot.
Firefighters found victims on every floor, many of them in cardiac and respiratory arrest, said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. Some could not escape because of the volume of smoke, he said.
Some residents said they initially ignored wailing smoke alarms because false alarms were so common in the 120-unit building, built in the early 1970s as affordable housing.
More than five dozen people were hurt and 13 were hospitalized in critical condition. The fire commissioner said most of the victims had severe smoke inhalation. Firefighters continued making rescues even after their air supplies ran out, Mayor Eric Adams said.
“Their oxygen tanks were empty and they still pushed through the smoke,” Adams said.
Investigators said the fire triggered by the electric heater started in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the 19-story building.
The flames didn't spread far — only charring the one unit and an adjacent hallway. But the door to the apartment and a door to a stairwell had been left open, letting smoke quickly spread throughout the building, Nigro said.
New York City fire codes generally require apartment doors to be spring-loaded and slam shut automatically, but it was not immediately clear whether this building was covered by those rules.
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