Eric Adams, Mayor of New York, speaks during a press conference on the first day of the return of students from winter break at a public elementary school in the Bronx neighborhood in New York, the United States, on Monday, January 3, 2022.
Jeenah moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
At least 19 people, including nine children, have died in a Bronx high-rise fire that city officials have named one of the worst in over 30 years.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires we’ve seen in New York City in modern times,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference several hours after the building burned.
The New York Fire Department commissioner identified at least 63 people treated with various injuries from smoke and fire. At least 32 of the 63 injured were initially admitted to at least five different hospitals in the district with life-threatening injuries; another nine were serious.
The names and ages of the victims were not disclosed.
The overwhelming majority of the fire victims were severely smoke inhaled, said FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro. Firefighters who stormed into the building discovered victims on almost every floor of the building – many of them suffered cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest.
“There were certainly people locked in their apartments all over this building,” said Nigro, calling the smoking conditions “unprecedented”.
Fire investigators located the source of the fire in a semi-detached house on the second and third floors of the building. The apartment door was left open, allowing the fire to spread and smoke to rise throughout the building, the commissioner added.
Nigro said it was “unusual” for the smoke to spread the length of the building.
The department estimates that 200 of its members responded to the 19-story apartment building on East 181st Street in Fordham Heights around 11 a.m. The fire was put down just before 1 p.m.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires we’ve seen in New York City in modern times,” Mayor Eric Adams said at an afternoon press conference.
Angelo Patri Middle School on Webster Avenue has been opened to each of the residents displaced by the fire, police said Sunday afternoon.
Nigro and Adams called Sunday’s disaster one of the worst fires in the city in at least three decades. More than 30 years ago, on March 25, 1990, a fire was deliberately set at the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx and 87 people were killed.
Videos circulating on social media show thick smoke rising from the lower levels of the building that firefighters seemed to be paying their attention to.
When asked about rumors on social media that a local resident jumped out of the building to get to safety, the commissioner said someone might have slipped trying to get on a fire escape, but he has no reports of one Get Springer.
Firefighters are on site to investigate the cause of the fire, but the commissioner said he doesn’t think investigators will consider the source to be suspicious.