Bronx fire: New York firefighters battled a smoky fire in 1986 at the same building where 17 were killed this week

The March 1986 fire was documented in the official FDNY training publication, WNYF, in which department members write about fire incidents, highlighting protocols and training, according to an FDNY spokesperson.

The article said smoke from the 1986 fire swept the floor and swallowed whole corridors, seeping out from under the doors of closed apartments “creating frightful and in some cases unsustainable conditions for the occupants of the interior.”

Residents who survived Sunday’s fire reported encountering thick smoke as it filled the 19-storey building.

A fire lit a “malfunctioning” electric fireplace in a duplex unit on the second and third floors, and as apartment residents fled, their door was left open, allowing the flames to spread as smoke rose and took over much of the building, Fire Commissioner Daniel Negro said Sunday.

Officials said the door from the stairwell to the 15th floor was also left open, although the doors were supposed to close automatically.

“Smoke spread all over the building. Consequently, a massive number of lives have been lost and other people fighting for their lives are now in hospitals across the Bronx,” Negro said.

The WNYF article said it believed the 1986 fire had originated in the building’s garbage compressor.

Although no one died in the 1986 incident, the FDNY noted several fire safety issues in the building, including doors that were left propped open and contributed to the “extreme smoke condition on all upper floors,” according to the publication.

The case study highlighted that the stairwell door opened to “increase natural ventilation” on one floor in conjunction with the compressor shaft doors that were open on different floors “contributed to the severity of the subsequent fire,” as stated in the article.

The article noted that the apartments in the building were fitted with double-closed, self-closing, fire-resistant doors and smoke detectors. She also said that the compressor shaft and compressor rooms had fire sprinklers, but she wouldn’t say if sprinklers were installed throughout the building.

Victim identification

The method of death for all victims of Sunday’s fire was determined to be accident, according to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

Police said their ages ranged from two to 50 years old.

she was:

Fatomata Drama Female 50; Drama Female Full 21; Muhammad Darama, male, 12 years old. Neaisheh, Dramatic, female, 19; Haji Doukari, male, 49; Fetumata Dokoreh, female, 5. Haja Dakoura, 37 female. Maryam Dakoura, 11, female. Mustafa Doqoura, male, 12 years old. Omar Gambang, male, 6; Sera Jannah, female, 27. Hawa Muhammadu, female, 5; Seydou Toure, male, 12; Fatumata Tonkara, 43, female. Isato Gabi, female, 31; Haji Jawara, 47, male; Osman Konteh, male, 2.

Some residents have been able to return to their upstairs apartments, New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) told CNN.

“The process is continuing and evolving,” said spokeswoman Inas Bibia.

Bibia said the agency was unable to provide a timetable for when or how many people would enter the building again, as the building’s management is notifying residents individually and “is not in a hurry for people to return to their apartments.”

Lawsuits for $3 billion in damages

The tenants and relatives of the victims have filed a class-action lawsuit against the building’s current and former owners seeking $2 billion in damages, according to court documents.

The city and various entities have also received notice of a separate class action claiming $1 billion in damages for alleged negligence in building code enforcement.

Here are ways to help Bronx Fire victims

In a statement to CNN, New York City Law Department Press Secretary Nicholas Polucci said, “This was a horrific tragedy and cost many lives. There is an active investigation into this tragic incident. We will review this allegation.”

City data shows there have been at least four heat complaints and one complaint about a defective self-closing door reported last year to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the agency that oversees abuses of housing development in the city.

According to the agency, some breaches were fixed.

“HPD is working to ensure that severe violations are addressed and that the apartments are safe to return,” company spokesperson Jeremy House told CNN in a statement on Wednesday.

Two cities in the northeastern United States are suffering from wildfires that have claimed dozens of lives

Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, which bought the complex in 2019 and was named in one of the lawsuits, issued a short statement.

“This terrible tragedy has left us devastated and we are cooperating fully with the fire department and other agencies as the investigation continues.”

Attorney Robert Vilensky said he is representing 22 plaintiffs in the lawsuits but expects that number to increase.

The lawsuit against the building owners alleges that the defendants were negligent on several fronts, including the lack of certainty that smoke detectors were working, the lack of adequate heat, the lack of an intercom system, and the lack of a sprinkler system.

CNN’s Julie In, Toby Lyles, Kelly McCleary and Amir Vera William Riley contributed to this report.


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