Update (1840ET): Authorities have confirmed that the deadly Bronx apartment complex fire that killed at least 19 people (including 9 children) was started by a malfunctioning space heater, NYC Mayor Eric Adams disclosed during a press conference Sunday evening.
32 people have been hospitalized, and 60 were injured in total. One reason this fire's death toll was high was because of the smoke, not the flames, which were mostly confined to one apartment.
Here are more details, courtesy of Reuters:
The fire itself started in an apartment that spanned the second and third floors of the building, and only made it to the hall, officials said.
But smoke still spread to every floor of the building, likely because the door to the apartment was left open, and victims suffered from significant smoke inhalation, the city's fire department commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters at a news briefing.
"Members found victims on every floor in stairwells and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest," he said.
Fire marshals had determined through physical evidence and accounts from residents the fire started in a portable electric heater in the apartment's bedroom, Nigro said. He added that the heat had been on in the apartment building and that the portable heater had been supplementing that heating.
Mayor Eric Adams is just one week into his new job of running the city, and is already confronting a major tragedy. The fire is the deadliest in NYC in decades...
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On an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon, a fire at a massive apartment complex in the Bronx has suddenly become the most deadly fire in the city in decades, casting a pall over the first weeks of Mayor Eric Adams' tenure.
So far, 19 people have been killed in the fire, including 9 children. Another 13 are hospitalized in critical condition.
Approximately 200 firefighters responded to the building on East 181st Street where the fire broke out around 1100ET Sunday. Initial reports said the fire was on the third floor of the 19-story building, with flames blowing out the windows, according to the AP.
Firefighters "found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest," the fire commissioner said. "That is unprecedented in our city."
Sunday’s fire originated in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors,
Mayor Adams called the fire "horrific."
The fire comes after a similarly devastating rowhouse fire in Philadelphia that left 12 dead, including eight children.
Footage of the fire is already making the rounds on social media.
19 people killed, including 9 children in tragic Bronx apartment building fire. It’s one of the worst fire disasters in New York City history. pic.twitter.com/TWzjaJSRhW— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) January 9, 2022
Building resident Cristal Diaz, 27, told the New York Post she started putting wet towels at the bottom of her door after smelling smoke. "Everything was crazy," she said. "We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they were taking with the blankets."
The 120-unit where the fire broke out is one of multiple buildings in the Twin Parks Northwest complex. It was built in 1973 as part of a project to build subsidized affordable housing across the Bronx. Right now, there's no reason to believe the fire was "suspicious" in origin. But the cause is being investigated.