FDNY Commissioner Daniel Negro said the deceased were taken to seven different hospitals, and explained the review of 19 to 17 deaths as a result of double counting in two cases.
However, he said there were still seriously injured victims, and that he prepared the community for a possible increase in the death toll.
About 200 firefighters battled the five-alarm blaze that started on the third floor of the 19-story Twin Parks Northwest apartment building, located at 333 East 181st Street in the Tremont section, just before 11 a.m. Sunday.
At least 44 people were injured, and 13 were said to have “clung to their lives” in nearby hospitals. Many are intubated.
Derek Waller reports on the fatal fire in the Bronx:
Negro said the FDNY is sure the cause was a malfunctioning electric heater that set a mattress on fire.
While the fire was contained in the duplex as it started on the second and third floors and the adjacent corridor, smoke spread throughout the building. It was the smoke that caused the deaths.
Mayor Eric Adams said his food from the fire is to “close the door,” and that the city will remind New Yorkers with this message.
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The fire apartment door and the one on the 15th floor did not close automatically as it should, allowing smoke to enter and swell throughout the building.
Mamadou Waghi told eyewitness reporter Josh Eniger that the fire broke out on the two-story third floor, where he lives with his wife and eight children, one of whom is trapped on a burning bed.
Wague suffered burns to his nose when he jumped through the flames to rescue his daughter, who is burnt but alive.
He said, “We were sleeping and my children were screaming, ‘Fire, fire!’ So I saw the fire in the mattress, and I said to everyone, ‘Get out, get out.’
The smoke alarms were operable, but the open door allowed thick smoke to flow through the building and into the stairwells as residents tried to escape.
“They closed themselves but the door on the 15th and the door of the fire apartment are not working as they should,” Negro said. “The door was not blocked. The door remained fully open when it was fully opened due to its failure.”
A city official said the building owners told them all doors were self-closing and that construction workers confirmed that a self-closing mechanism was working on the apartment fire door when the lock was fixed last July,
Investigators tested self-closing mechanisms on all of the building’s doors on Sunday and most worked, although the door in the fire apartment did not, as well as a couple other.
The firefighters described an infernal scene.
“It was absolutely horrific,” said Andrew Ansbrough, president of the Firefighters’ Association. “I spoke to several veteran firefighters who said this was the worst fire they had ever seen. They were doing CPR on people outside. It was absolutely awful. The members worked with the utmost heroism. Unfortunately, not all fires have positive results. It’s horrific. This fire will go on with these members forever.”
Patients are spread among hospitals such as Jacobi Medical Center, Westchester Medical Center, and New York Presbyterian/Cornell Hospital. So far, the names of the dead have not been revealed.
“My thoughts are with the loved ones of all we tragically lost, all those affected, and our heroic firefighters,” said Governor Cathy Hochhol. “The entire state of New York stands with New York City.”
Tayssen Jacobs returned home on Monday, hoping to get her medicine.
“I got down on my knees and started praying to God, ‘Oh God, help us,’” she said. “I have lived in this building for over 30 years. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Meanwhile, neighbors rush to help.
“My children and I agreed to donate jackets, baby clothes and cereal, and whatever we had in the house that we can save, I will donate now,” said Joanna Bellevue, a resident of the area. “We live here. We are a community, so the other hand washes.”
Read also | How you can help families affected by the Bronx Fire
The building was emptied of residents Sunday night, but the OEM said residents should be able to return to several apartments in the coming days. Other apartments will be uninhabitable for a period of time, and alternative accommodation is arranged for the displaced.
Many of the victims are Muslim immigrants from the West African country of The Gambia, and Adams urged everyone to seek help and assured that their information would not be passed on to federal immigration authorities.
“We just want now to give the families the support they deserve,” he said. “And let the guards do their work to determine what happened here.”
He praised the firefighters who responded, calling them heroes.
“A lot of them were empty oxygen tanks,” he said. “But instead of turning back and out of the building, they burrowed through the smoke.”
It is the deadliest fire in New York City in three decades.
Related | The four deadliest fires in New York City since 1990 were all in the Bronx
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires annually, while the National Fire Protection Association claims that space heaters were mostly responsible for home heating equipment fires, accounting for more than two in five fires, As well as the vast majority of deaths (81%) and injuries (80%) in home fires caused by heating equipment.
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