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Bronx apartment fire kills at least 19, incl. 9 children: report

200 FDNY members responded to a 5-alarm fire at 333 East 181 Street in the Bronx considered one of the city's worst ever, on Jan. 9, 2022. (FDNY/Released)

The deadliest New York City fire in decades killed at least 19 Bronx building residents Sunday, including nine children, FDNY sources said.

“This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city of New York and the impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of just pain and despair in our city,” Mayor Eric Adams said at the scene.

“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed during modern times in the city of New York,” the mayor added.

The five-alarm blaze broke out about 10:54 a.m. in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors of the 19-story building at 333 E. 181st St. near Tiebout Avenue in Fordham Heights.

Firefighters arrived within three minutes, their ranks soon swelling to 200, FDNY officials said.

”They were met in the hallway with this fire,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at the scene. “Very heavy smoke, very heavy fire.”

“This smoke extended the entire height of the building — completely unusual,” Nigro added. “Members found victims on every floor, in stairwells, and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest.

“There were certainly people trapped in their apartments all through this building, which is why our members did an unbelievable job of getting through every floor of this building and getting to these folks,” he added. “But some of them were already in arrest when we reached them.”

Medics rushed 32 people with life-threatening injuries and three with serious injuries to five local hospitals, officials said. Nineteen people had minor injuries and were treated at the scene. All of the victims suffered severe smoke inhalation, Nigro said.

Nineteen victims have died, a high-raking FDNY official said.

“That is unprecedented in our city,” Nigro said. “The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at Happy Land fire over 30 years ago, also here in the Bronx.”

On March 25, 1990, an arsonist used a can of gasoline to set fire the Happy Land Social Club at 1959 Southern Blvd. in East Tremont. The resulting inferno killed 87 panic-stricken clubgoers, half of them under 25. It was the deadliest city blaze in 79 years.

On Sunday, more than 40 people were rescued from the burning building, FDNY sources said.

“How the fire started, we don’t know yet. It will be investigated,” Nigro said. “It is not suspicious at this point.

“What I do know, and we’ve stressed this over and over, the door to that apartment was left open causing the fire to spread and the smoke to spread,” Nigro added.

The building includes multiple units converted into duplexes and has spaces hard to reach for firefighters.

“It’s a tough place to fight a fire,” an FDNY source said.

Public records show the building has multiple open violations for mouse and roach infestations, peeling lead paint and water leaks. One open complaint with city Housing Preservation and Development makes reference to defective fire retardant material in a first-floor ceiling.

On Dec. 28, 2017, a fire started by a boy playing with a stove killed raged through an apartment building at 2363 Prospect Ave. in Belmont, killing four children and eight adults. A 13th victim died at the hospital several days later.

That fire spread because the boy’s mom didn’t close the door as she ran out of her burning apartment, allowing the flames to spread up the stairs and throughout the building.

It was the worst fatal fire in the city in a quarter-century.


©2022 New York Daily News.

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