More fatalities are expected, officials said.
January 9, 2022, 9:47 PM
7 min read
At least 19 people are dead, including nine children, following a massive fire in New York City on Sunday, officials said.
More than 200 firefighters responded to the scene of the five-alarm fire that originated Sunday morning in a duplex apartment on the third floor of a high-rise building, located in the Tremont section of the Bronx, officials said. More than 60 people were injured in the fire, according to the New York City Fire Department.
Approximately 13 people are in Bronx hospitals with life-threatening injuries, officials said.
Many of the injured victims were located on the upper floors and likely suffered from severe smoke inhalation, New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said during a press conference Sunday afternoon. The fire never left the hallway on the floor where it originated, Nigro said.
The 19-story building was built in 1972 and has 120 units, according to city records.
The fire began due to a malfunctioning electric space heater in a bedroom, the FDNY said Sunday evening. Smoke alarms were operable, and it remains under investigation how the smoke traveled so far so quickly.
Guillermo Sanchez, a resident who lives on the 16th floor, was making breakfast when he began to smell smoke, he told ABC News.
“My son went to the door,” he said. “We opened the door. Smoke comes in immediately, so we closed the door.”
The smoke was so intense, Sanchez said he assumed it was from another apartment on the same floor.
Sanchez, emotional from the ordeal, said he and his son called 911 but felt they could not safely take the stairs to exit the building, he said, adding that they were calling family members to tell them they may not make it.
The firefighter who initially knocked on his door said everything was under control, but another firefighter who came a half an hour later said, “You have to come with us,” Sanchez said.
Firefighters arrived on the scene within three minutes of the initial 911 call and were met with fire in the hallways, Nigro said. A door that was left open allowed the fire and smoke to spread, Nigro added, describing the fire as “unprecedented.”
“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed here in modern times in the city of New York,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams told reporters Sunday.
Adams praised the first responders, saying many of the firefighters’ oxygen tanks eventually became empty but “they still went through the smoke.”
Dramatic pictures posted to social media show fire gushing out of multiple windows in the building. FDNY began receiving calls from multiple residents on upper floors just before 11 a.m.
The fire has since been put out. Additional details, including the conditions of the other victims, were not immediately available.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul appeared at the news conference, saying that she spoke with a mother who lost her entire family in the fire, telling the victims, “We will not forget you. We will not abandon you.”
The Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, the name of the joint venture that owns building at 333 E 181st St., said in a statement that it was “devastated” over the tragedy that occurred.
“We are devastated by the unimaginable loss of life caused by this profound tragedy,” the statement read. “We are cooperating fully with the Fire Department and other city agencies as they investigate its cause, and we are doing all we can to assist our residents. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured, and we are here to support them as we recover from this horrific fire.”
A total of 73 people died in New York City fires in all of 2021.
This was the second major fire in the Bronx over the weekend. A four-alarm fire in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx that began early Saturday morning injured a firefighter and displaced three families, ABC New York station WABC reported. A lithium-ion battery sparked the fire, officials said.
Last week, a fire that broke out on the second story of a row house in Philadelphia killed 13 people, including seven children.