New York City’s worst fire in more than 30 years expected to kill ‘countless people’

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a news conference on the first day of his return from winter break at a public elementary school in the Bronx, New York, U.S., Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

Gina Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New York City officials have called the fire at a 19-story apartment building in the Bronx one of the worst in the city in more than 30 years.

The chief of the New York City Fire Department said he expected “numerous deaths” after determining that at least 63 people were injured to varying degrees by the smoke and fires. At least 32 people were taken to at least five different hospitals in the area with life-threatening conditions.

The vast majority of fire victims had inhaled severe smoke, FDNY Chief Danny Gross said. Firefighters who stormed the building found victims on nearly every floor of the building – many found them in cardiac and respiratory arrest.

“There must be people in this building trapped in their apartments,” said Nigro, who called the smog conditions “unprecedented.”

Fire investigators have determined that the cause of the blaze was a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the building. The commissioner added that the apartment door had been left open, allowing the fire to spread and smoke billowing throughout the building.

Nigro said it was “unusual” for the smoke to extend the length of the building.

The department estimated that 200 members responded to the 19-story residential building on East 181st Street in Fordham Heights around 11 a.m. The fire was put out by 1 p.m.

“This will be one of the worst fires we’ve seen in modern New York City,” Mayor Eric Adams said at an afternoon news conference.

Negro and Adams called Sunday’s disaster one of the worst fires the city has seen in at least three decades. In 1990, the Happy Land fire claimed 87 lives in the Bronx.

Angelo Patri Middle School on Webster Avenue has been opened for any residents displaced by the fire, police announced Sunday afternoon.

Video circulating on social media showed smoke rising from the lower floors of the building, and firefighters appeared to be focusing.

Asked about rumours on social media about a resident jumping to his escape, the commissioner said someone may have slipped while trying to climb a fire escape, but he had not received any reports of jumps.

Firefighters are at the scene investigating the cause of the blaze, but the commissioner said he did not believe investigators would consider the source suspicious.


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