Harlem Fire That Killed Family Caused By Unattended Stove: FDNY

patch.com - May 09, 2019

by Brendan Krisel, Patch National Staff

The fatal fire broke out early Wednesday morning at NYCHA's Fred E. Samuels Apartments on Seventh Avenue near West 142 Street.

HARLEM, NY — A family of six, including a mother and her four young children, were killed Wednesday morning when a fire broke out inside their apartment in a Harlem public housing building, fire officials said.

The fire broke out in the fifth-floor apartment on the corner of West 142nd Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard around 1:40 a.m., fire officials said. A 45-year-old woman, her two daughters, 11 and 6, and sons, 3 and 8, were declared dead at the scene, fire officials said. A 33-year-old man related to the family was also found dead inside the apartment, officials said.

Firefighters discovered the victims in the apartment's rear bedrooms after they were able to extinguish the blaze, fire officials said. It took a crew of about 100 firefighters nearly two hours to bring the fire under control.

"The fire met [firefighters] at the front door of the apartment, it is a particularly large apartment with 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, every bit of that apartment had fire damage," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said during a press conference Wednesday morning.

City officials did not identify the victims of the fire, but neighbors said that the family included 45-year-old mother Andrea Pollidore and her children Nakiyra, 11, Andre, 8, Brooklyn, 6, and Elijah, 3.

The building where the fire broke out is part of the Frederick E. Samuel Apartments development run by the New York City Housing Authority. More than 1,400 people live in the 40-building development, which is made up of low-rise apartment buildings in the West 140s.

Frederick E. Samuel Apartments Residents Association Leader Diana Blackwell desribed the family as a quiet group that got along well with other families the building.

"It is a very painful day for our city. This is a horrible loss and we woke up this morning and heard about the unspeakable – a whole family, and I want to say as a father, hearing that four children were lost in a single family is just extraordinarily painful. Two adults, four children – this is a gut-wrenching moment for all of us," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

"We need to keep the Pollidore family in our prayers, in our thoughts, we need to be there for the surviving members of the family, all of us as New Yorkers are feeling this tragedy together," the mayor added.

Preliminary investigations indicate that the fire was an accident sparked by an unattended stove, Nigro said. The apartment's kitchen is located near the front door, which prevented the family for exiting the apartment and made it difficult for firefighters to enter the home, fire officials said. The quick-moving fire also prevented family members from accessing the fire escape, which was located on the opposite side of the apartment from the bedrooms, Nigro said.

Three other building residents suffered injuries during the fire, fire officials said. The fire was placed under control around 3:20 a.m., fire officials said.

Debris from the burnt out apartment was scattered on the street Wednesday morning as city fire marshals conducted an investigation into the fire. The apartment's windows were blown out and black burn marks streaked the facade of the apartment building.

A NYCHA worker tested the apartment's smoke detector during an unrelated maintenance call in January, Interim NYCHA Chair Kathryn Garcia said Wednesday. It's NYCHA policy to test smoke detectors any time a maintenance worker is inside a unit, Garcia said. The apartment's was installed in 2017.

"This has been a very tragic day for the NYCHA family," Garcia said Wednesday.