NYC Fire Claims Lives of 6 Family Members, Including 4 Children, at 109-year-old Harlem Apartment Building

Newsweek - May 09, 2019

by SCOTT MCDONALD

New York City family that moved from one borough to another because of a fire, perished in an apartment fire overnight Tuesday. Six people, including two adults and four children ages 3 to 11, died during a fire in their fifth-floor apartment in Queens.

Fire officials say a fire that began on the kitchen stove of the apartment intensified before firefighters made their way to the unit, and that family members had been sleeping in bedrooms at the rear of the apartment when the fire spread. Firefighters faced the blaze at the door before they could get into the three-bedroom unit to save anyone, the New York Times reported.

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said firefighters found the six people unconscious at the back of the apartment in bedrooms. Neighbors identified the family as 45-year-old Andrea Pollidore and her four children: Nakyra, 11; Andre, 8, Brook-Lynn, 6 and Elijah, 3. The sixth victim was identified as Pollidore’s brother, 32-year-old Matt Abdularaph.

The 109-year-old building at the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 142nd Street is operated by the New York City Housing Authority, the report stated. Nigro said the kitchen was located closest to the entrance, making it difficult for firefighters to battle through it and make their way through the unit.

“Every bit of that apartment had fire damage,” Nigro said.

Though a housing authority spokesperson said the unit was equipped with a smoke and carbon-monoxide alarm in 2017 and had been tested just this January, family members of Pollidore said she often disconnected the alarm when cooking. Nigro said the firefighters did not hear a smoke alarm as they sifted through the building and made their way to the apartment. Nigro said the fire department deployed about 100 firefighters to the blaze.

“They were unable to get to either the door of that apartment or the windows that were on the fire escape,” he said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said an investigation into the fire would be conducted, but added, “all signs point to simply a horrible, terrible accident."

The fire was the city’s deadliest blaze since a December 2017 apartment fire in Brooklyn took the lives of 12 people. That fire began when a 3-year-old was playing with knobs on a stove, the Times stated.

Raven Reyes, an adult daughter of Pollidore, said her mother survived a fire at a Brooklyn apartment in 2013, when she suffered first-degree burns, which eventually led her to move her family to the Harlem neighborhood.

Reyes said her mother worked her way through nursing school to provide a better life for her family.