AP

19 dead, including 9 children, in NYC apartment fire

Jan 9, 2022, 5:17 PM
Firefighters work outside an apartment building after a fire in the Bronx, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in...
Firefighters work outside an apartment building after a fire in the Bronx, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
(AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

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, Vernessa Cunningham said she raced home from church after getting an alert on her cellphone that the building was on fire.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in shock,” Cunningham, 60, said from a nearby school where some residents gathered. “I could see my apartment. The windows were all busted out. And I could see flames coming from the back of the building.”

The 120-unit building in the Twin Parks North West complex was built in 1973 as part of a project to build modern, affordable housing in the Bronx.

The drab brown building looms over an intersection of smaller, aging brick buildings overlooking Webster Avenue, one of the Bronx’s main thoroughfares.

By Sunday afternoon, all that remained visible of the unit where the fire started was a gaping black hole where the windows had been blown out. Apartments as high as the 12th floor also had broken windows. The intersection was choked with police and fire vehicles, and onlookers were still snapping cellphone pictures of the structure as darkness fell.

“There’s no guarantee that there’s a working fire alarm in every apartment, or in every common area,” U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Democrat who represents the area, told the AP. “Most of these buildings have no sprinkler system. And so the housing stock of the Bronx is much more susceptible to devastating fires than most of the housing stock in the city.”

Nigro and Torres both compared the fire’s severity to a 1990 blaze at the Happy Land social club where 87 people were killed when a man set fire to the building after getting into an argument with his former girlfriend and being thrown out of the Bronx club.

Sunday’s death toll was the highest for a fire in the city since the Happy Land fire. It was also the deadliest fire at a U.S. residential apartment building since 2017 when 13 people died in an apartment building, also in the Bronx, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.

That fire started with a 3-year-old boy playing with stove burners and led to several law changes in New York City, including having the fire department to create a plan for educating children and parents on fire safety and requiring certain residential buildings to install self-closing doors.

Sunday’s fire happened just days after 12 people, including eight children, were killed in a house fire in Philadelphia. The deadliest fire prior to that was in 1989 when a Tennessee apartment building fire claimed the lives of 16 people.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

The White House to ask for less money to fund border wall...
ACACIA CORONADO and GISELA SALOMON Associated Press

Increase in Venezuelan migration is felt across US

Dave and Dujanovic discuss the causes of immigration and are joined by U of U political science professor. Listen live at 10:05 EAGLE PASS, Texas (AP) — It cost Nerio two months and everything he had to get from Venezuela to the U.S., traveling mainly by foot and watching as exhausted fellow migrants were assaulted […]
2 days ago
In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
5 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
6 days ago
Trump pictured. A lawsuit against Trump was just filed in new york...
Associated Press

NY attorney general sues Donald Trump and his company

Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit is the culmination of the Democrat's three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization.
7 days ago
el helicoide caracas...
RODRIQUE NGOWI, GISELA SALOMON and CLAUDIA TORRENS Associated Press

Surprise is key part of migrant travel from Florida, Texas

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — The chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was wrapping up work when she looked outside to see 48 strangers at her office with luggage, backpacks and red folders that included brochures for her organization. The Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island from San Antonio on Wednesday […]
9 days ago
school classrooms...
Collin Binkley Associated Press

Reading, math scores fell sharply during pandemic, data show

WASHINGTON (AP) — Math and reading scores for America’s 9-year-olds fell dramatically during the first two years of the pandemic, according to a new federal study — offering an early glimpse of the sheer magnitude of the learning setbacks dealt to the nation’s children. Reading scores saw their largest decrease in 30 years, while math […]
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
19 dead, including 9 children, in NYC apartment fire