Bronx Fire, City’s Deadliest in Decades, Kills at Least 12 and Injures More

NY Times - December 29, 2017

by MAGGIE ASTOR and ASHLEY SOUTHALL

Gusty winds fueled a deadly fire on Thursday at this five-story apartment building in the Belmont section of the Bronx. Credit David Dee Delgado for The New York Times At least 12 people were killed, including a 1-year-old child, when a fire tore through a century-old apartment building in the Bronx on a frigid Thursday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. It was the deadliest fire in New York City in more than a quarter-century.

In addition to the deaths, four people were critically injured and two people sustained non-life-threatening injuries, the mayor said at a news conference late Thursday.

By the time Mr. de Blasio spoke around 10 p.m., the flames had been brought under control. The cause was not yet clear.

It was a bitterly cold night, with temperatures in the teens, and the wind chill made it feel like single digits. Displaced residents walked around draped in American Red Cross blankets.

Under a sign welcoming visitors to Little Italy, a woman wailed as she hopped out of a Red Cross vehicle. The woman, who declined to give her name, said that she had escaped with her daughter and pulled two children from a neighbor’s family from the fire, but that other children had been left behind.

“I had one on my front and one on my back,” she said, sobbing. “I couldn’t carry the rest of them.”

Luz Hernandez, another resident, said she first realized something was wrong when the smell of burned rubber filled her apartment on the fourth floor, followed by smoke so thick that it made the room pitch-black. She summoned her husband and two sons, 11 and 16, to the window, and they descended the front fire escape as smoke rose near them.

Later, Ms. Hernandez said in Spanish, she saw the charred bodies of two women who lived together and their two young daughters being carried away on stretchers.

The smoke seeped through the closed windows of a building next door where Ana Santiago, 25, was cooking in a fifth-floor apartment.

Ms. Santiago said she called 911 and ran downstairs with her 4-year-old son, knocking on neighbors’ doors as she went. When she reached the street, she saw a man lying on the ground, she said, pointing to a patch of sidewalk where glass shards lay like snow. She said she could not tell if he was alive or dead.

Three young girls, Ms. Santiago said, had descended from a fire escape barefoot, wearing no coats. They stood outside, crying, before a neighbor in a first-floor apartment hurried them indoors.

The building — a five-story walk-up on Prospect Avenue near East 187th Street, close to Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo — was built in 1916, according to property records. It has more than 20 units.

The 12 confirmed fatalities made the fire the deadliest since an inferno at the Happy Land social club killed 87 people in 1990. It surpassed the toll from a decade ago, in March 2007, when 10 people — nine of them children — were killed after an overheated cord to a space heater caused a fire that tore through a four-story house in the Bronx.

J. David Goodman, Benjamin Mueller, Matt Stevens and Vivian Wang contributed reporting.

At least 12 dead in Bronx fire By Elizabeth Joseph, CNN

New York (CNN)At least 12 people, including a child, were killed in a fire Thursday night at a five-story apartment building in the Bronx, one of New York City's boroughs, officials said. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called it the "worst fire tragedy in this city in at least a quarter century." Four people were critically injured and others were hurt, the mayor said. He added that it's possible that "we may lose others as well."

"This will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years," de Blasio said in a Thursday press conference.

The fire started on the first floor and spread quickly, said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. The victims, ranging in age from 1 to 50, died on various floors of the apartment building.

The first call about the fire came at 6:51 p.m. ET and the fire department responded within three minutes, Nigro said.

"This tragedy is, without question, historic in its magnitude," he said. "Our hearts go out to every family who lost a loved one here and everyone fighting for their lives."

At least 12 people were rescued and are expected to survive, the mayor said. By the time the officials spoke around 10 p.m. ET, the fire had been put out and the building was being searched.