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Horrific Bronx fire leaves at least 19 dead, dozens more critically injured

At least 19 people are dead, including nine children, after the city’s deadliest fire in more than 30 years tore through a Bronx apartment building Sunday morning, according to a police official.

The five-alarm blaze — which has been blamed on a malfunctioning space heater — broke out just before 11 a.m. at 333 E 181st St, a 19-story building in the Tremont section of the Bronx, the FDNY said, and was knocked down about an hour later.

“There were bodies being carried off every floor,” a firefighter told the Post. “It was the worst fire I saw in 30 years.”

Around 200 FDNY members responded to battle the inferno, which officials say broke out in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors when the space heater malfunctioned in a bedroom. The heat was on in the building but the space heater was being used to supplement it. A door left open in the apartment where the fire originated allowed the smoke to spread throughout the building.

Engine 48 was the first team to respond to the fire — but apparently was short-staffed.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

“They only had four firefighters instead of the five they are called for because of people out sick because of Covid,” said the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro, who said it’s the worst fire the city has seen since 9/11. “We feel this is an absolute case where staffing would have made a difference.”

“Several of the first engines were in the same situation. If there was adequate staffing the fire could have been put out faster and people would have received medical aid sooner,” he said. FDNY officials denied this, saying the department is fully-staffed.

Dilenny Rodriguez, 38, lives on the ninth floor with her family and said she could hear children’s screams echoing throughout the apartment as she escaped with her own children.

“I heard a lot of kids yelling, ‘ Help! Help! Help!’ It was dark. The smoke was really bad. Those kids crying for help,” she said

A man receives medical attention at the scene of the fire.
Mayor Eric Adams said the fire “is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in the City of New York in modern times.”
A police officer holds a child at the scene of the fire.
At least 19 people died in the blaze, including nine children.
Firemen climb a ladder at the blaze.
One firefighter said the blaze was one of the worst he had seen in 30 years.

One resident told the Post that people might not have fled the building because its fire alarm is constantly blaring.

“The fire alarm goes off in the hallway all the time, at least twice a week,” said the 18th floor resident, who asked not to be named. “What do I do when I watch a movie? I put the volume up because it goes off all the time.

“I don’t know if it’s faulty or what it is but it goes off all the time. People on the third, fourth, fifth and went about their day until they saw smoke,” he said. Fire officials said Sunday afternoon they would look into the fire alarm system.

People inside the building where glass had been blown out from the windows.
As many as 200 firefighter responded to the Bronx fire.
A fire broke out in a Bronx building Sunday morning, leaving numerous people seriously injured.
A fire broke out in a Bronx building Sunday morning, leaving numerous people seriously injured.

Among the dead is a 4-year old, according to police sources. Fire officials said that at least 32 people sustained life-threatening injuries. The ages of the deceased have not been released. The building was home to a large Muslim community.

At nearby Jacobi Hospital, Aisha Dukuray, 28, searched for her 20 relatives who live in the building.

Dukuray said her family, all immigrants from Gambia, are scattered across area hospitals but she doesn’t know who is where. She is hitting one hospital at a time trying to identify her kin. Montefiore Hospital is her next stop.

“I’ve only seen just bodies for now, and none of them I can identify. The one I saw here was a 15- or 16-year-old boy, who I thought might be my nephew. I saw his face in a body bag. He looked familiar, but it wasn’t him.”

The fire broke out at t 333 E 181st St in the early hours of January 9, 2022.
The fire broke out at 333 E 181st St in the early hours of January 9, 2022.

“Everybody’s calling me,” said Dukuray, who doesn’t live in the building. “I’m a nurse myself, and I went home to change and help look.”

Sources told the Post that a victim identification system has been implemented so family members can call 311 to report missing relatives and friends and help identify bodies. The deceased are being brought to both the Manhattan and Queens Morgues.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said authorities “expect there to be numerous fatalities, but we don’t know yet.”

“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in the City of New York in modern times,” Mayor Eric Adams said from the scene of the blaze Sunday, calling it “a horrific, horrific painful moment for the City of New York.”

Footage from social media shows fire fighters attempting to scale numerous ladders in order to save people.
Footage from social media shows firefighters attempting to scale numerous ladders in order to save people.

In December 2017, 13 people —including a year-old child — were killed when a Bronx apartment building went up in flames. That fire was the deadliest New York City blaze since 87 people perished in March 1990 in the Happy Land social-club arson attack, which took place less than a mile away. In March 2007, eight kids and one adult were killed after a century-old wooden building in the Bronx caught on fire.

In a second Sunday press conference, Adams commended the job of the firefighters.

“Their oxygen tanks were empty, and they still pushed through the smoke. You can’t do this if you don’t feel attached to the city and this community,” he said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at the afternoon presser, saying she would include a victim’s compensation fund in her new budget.

“There will be money to help them, find new housing, burial costs, whatever they need,” she said. “We will take care of them, we are here for the Bronx and we are here for anyone who needs us.”

Among 63 residents injured, 32 had life-threatening injuries, nine had serious injuries, and 22 were treated with non-life-threatening injuries, Adams said. One FDNY member was also injured and brought to the hospital.

Nigro said at a presser that the department responded within three minutes.

“This smoke extended the entire height of the building, completely unusual,” he said. “Members found victims on every floor in stairwells.”

A firefighter removes a young resident from the building.
A firefighter removes a young resident from the building.

Nigro called the fire “unprecedented in our city.”

“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at Happy Land Fire over 30 years ago here in the Bronx.”

Fire officials don’t yet know the origin of the fire.

“What I do know…is that the door to that apartment was left open causing the fire to spread and smoke to spread, which is always a problem for us. As we see here by the broken windows throughout the building, this fire took its toll on our city,” he said.

A man is helped away from the scene of the fatal blaze.
A man is helped away from the scene of the fatal blaze.

Ansbro said the mayor needs to reassess how he is staffing fire stations.

“I appreciate the mayor coming to the fire, but he needs to take a good look at staffing levels… Thirty years ago, there were five firefighters in every Engine Company.”

Adams said on MSNBC that the city has “an excellent system in place to get our apparatus there in the fastest time possible.”

“I am extremely encouraged by what I witnessed today,” the new mayor said. “Firefighters, some of them ran out of oxygen – the oxygen out of their tanks – but they still pushed through to rescue and save lives. And I’m extremely proud of the men and women who responded to this fire today.”

The building, which was constructed under federal guidelines and doesn’t have the same construction code as the city, currently stands as a shell of its former self, with windows on multiple floors broken.

Cristal Diaz, 27, a resident of the 15th floor, grabbed cousins, her aunt and dog “Fluffy” when she realized there was a fire.

“I was drinking coffee in the living room and I started smelling smoke. We started putting water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy,” Diaz said. “We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they were taking with the blankets.

Alanny, 13, her niece, said, “We saw moms fainting. They saw their kids dying.”

“We saw a bunch of bodies coming out. People from my childhood were dying,” Alanny said.

A scene of the fire trucks taken from above.
A neighbor compared the fire to 9/11.

Christopher Carrasquilo, 65, who lives next door, ran into the building to help save residents.

“A little kid was stuck in the elevator. I had to bring him down. It was something like 9/11,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“They need fire escapes. They gotta put fire escapes,” he said. “The owner who owns this building gotta do something about it.”

The FDNY said buildings of this height never have fire escapes.

Icy conditions made it tough to fight the fire, and the FDNY said it took more than an hour to put down the blaze.

A firefighter had smoke on his face from the fire.
Before Sunday, the city’s deadliest blaze in more than a quarter-century killed 13 people in a Bronx apartment building in 2017.

Rachel McKenzie, a ninth floor resident, was in tears at the scene. “It is all too much. Oh God,” she said. “They’re still looking for women and children. I can’t talk.”

Another ninth floor resident, Fatima, who declined to give her last name, said she is blessed to be alive.

“You can’t explain it. Thank god I found my 3-year-old daughter. We went down the stairwell and it was pitch black. You couldn’t see a thing,” she said. “We went onto the 6th floor and a neighbor let us in and we stayed there until the firemen took us out. It was traumatizing.”

Stefan Eutsnu, who lives on the 4th floor with his wife and children, said chance kept his children alive.

Eutsnu took his children to his sister’s house Sunday morning.

“When I got back, I was in the apartment with my wife and we smell the smoke,” he said. The couple ran down the stairs, overwhelmed by smoke. He said he couldn’t see a thing until he got outside, and that’s when he saw “all the hurt children.”

Harrowing images from the scene show a firefighter cradling a baby rescued from the fire, a victim on a stretcher, and a woman sitting on the ground being helped by paramedics with soot on her face.

Hame Wague, 16, lives with nine family members on a third floor apartment.

“My grandma was sleeping and she smelled smoke and quickly woke up and screamed fire! Fire! My dad knocked on everybody’s door. We quickly made sure everybody was OK, that everybody got out the apartment,” he said. “There was smoke everywhere.”

Governor Kathy Hochul said she was “horrified by the devastating fire.”

“My heart is with the loved ones of all those we’ve tragically lost, all of those impacted and with our heroic FDNY firefighters,” she wrote on Twitter.

Before Sunday, the city’s deadliest blaze in more than a quarter-century killed 13 people —including a year-old child — in a Bronx apartment building the night of Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. That fire was the deadliest New York City blaze since 87 people perished in March 1990 in the Happy Land social-club arson attack, which took place less than a mile away.

“Something like this happens, but you never expect this to happen to you,” Diaz, of the 15th floor, said.

Per: NYP

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