On one of the coldest nights this winter in New York City, a fire tore through an apartment building in the city’s Bronx borough. At least 12 people were killed, four people were critically injured and two others sustained non-life-threatening injuries, city officials say.
NPR’s Joel Rose reports for our Newscast unit:
“The fire broke out in the first floor of the building just before 7 p.m. and quickly spread through the building.
“Hours later, Mayor Bill de Blasio stood in the street near the scene of the fire to deliver the grim news, ‘This is the worst fire tragedy we’ve seen in this city in at least a quarter century. Based on info we have now, this will rank as one of the worst losses to life in a fire in many many years.’
“Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire began on the first floor of a five-story apartment building near the Bronx Zoo and spread to the upper floors. Nigro said it was ‘way too early’ in the investigation to talk about what might have caused the fire.”
Those escaping the fire rushed out into 15-degree temperatures. Thierno Diallo ran out of his apartment wearing his bathrobe, jacket and sandals, according to The Associated Press.
“Diallo, 59, a security guard originally from Conakry, Guinea, who lives in a ground floor apartment said he was home asleep when he heard banging on the door. It took him a moment to realize what was happening.
“Only when I heard people screaming, ‘There’s a fire in the building!’ ” he said. “I heard somebody, ‘Oh! Fire! Fire! Fire!'”
About 170 firefighters suffered through bone-chilling cold to rescue people from the building. The water from their hoses froze on the streets.
“Displaced residents walked around draped in American Red Cross blankets. Three young girls were whisked into a neighboring building after climbing down a fire escape with no shoes or coats.
“Officials said they were opening up the nearby Grace H. Dodge vocational high school as a reception center for people who needed housing and other services. People looking for relatives who lived in the building were also told to go to the school, or to call 311.”
This fire is the deadliest since 1990 when 87 people were killed in a fire at the Happy Land social club.
In 2007, another fire in a Bronx apartment building killed 10 people — nine of them children. The cause of that fire was attributed to an overheated cord from a space heater.