Bronx fire: what happened in New York apartment blaze - after ‘malfunctioning’ space heater kills at least 19

Over 200 firefighters attended the scene of the fire, which broke out early on Sunday morning

At least 19 people have died after a fire, said to have been caused by a “malfunctioning” space heater, broke out in an apartment building in New York City.

The blaze has been described by New York City Mayor Eric Adams as “one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times”.

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This is everything you need to know.

What happened?

On Sunday (9 January), over 200 firefighters attempted to tackle a blaze which had broken out in an apartment building in New York City, with the fire itself having started shortly before 11am on the second and third floors of the building.

According to Fire commissioner Dan Nigro, the fire was caused by a “malfunctioning electrical space heater” in a bedroom on the third floor of the building.

At a press conference, Nigro explained that once the fire spread in that flat, the door to the hallway was left open when the occupants ran out of the apartment.

He said: “The door to that apartment, unfortunately, when the residents left, was left open. It did not close by itself.

“The smoke spread throughout the building, thus the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives right now in hospitals all over the Bronx.”

Emergency first responders remain at the scene after the intense fire (Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Because the door had been left open, the fire had extended into the hall but, Nigro said, it did not spread to the rest of the building.

Nigro said firefighters “found victims on every floor in stairwells and were taking them out in respiratory and cardiac arrest”. According to Nigro, the majority of the victims in the fire suffered from severe smoke inhalation, not burns.

He went on to compare the fire to that of the Happy Land social club fire in 1990, which killed 89 people.

How many died?

At least 19 people have died as a result of the fire, including nine children.

Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to Mayor Adams, said that the children amongst those who died were aged 16 and younger.

In addition to those who lost their lives, at least 32 others sustained life-threatening injuries, nine had serious injuries and 22 were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. One firefighter was also injured during the blaze and was taken to the hospital.

At least 19 have died as a result of the fire, with many more injured (Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Speaking to the New York Post, one resident of the building said that people did not flee the building as fast as they could have due to the fact that the fire alarm in the building frequently goes off, so they may have thought it was just another false alarm.

They said: “The fire alarm goes off in the hallway all the time, at least twice a week.

“What do I do when I watch a movie? I put the volume up because it goes off all the time. I don’t know if [the fire alarm] is faulty or what it is… People on the third, fourth, fifth [floors] went about their day until they saw smoke.”

However, Kelly Magee, a spokesperson for the property owners, reportedly said that the fire alarm system in the building was working, and that there were no known issues with the smoke alarms.

What did Mayor Eric Adams say?

Speaking about the blaze, the New York City Mayor said that the incident is “a horrific, painful moment for the city of New York”.

He said: “The impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of pain and despair in our city.

“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed during modern times.”

Adams added: “This is a heavy immigrant community, and we want to make sure the residents know that if you need assistance your names will not be turned over to ICE [Immigration Customs Enforcement], or any other institution.

“We want people to be comfortable coming forward.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams addresses the media in the aftermath of a deadly fire at a 19-story building on January 9, 2022 in the Bronx (Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

The Mayor praised “the men and women who went in this building, these firefighters”.

He said: “Their oxygen masks were empty, and they still pushed through the smoke. You can’t do this if you don’t feel attached to the city, this community, and I really want to thank them for putting their lives on the line to save lives.”

Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, also announced that a victims’ compensation fund would be established.

Hochul said: “It’s hard to fathom what they’re going through. I went table to table, helping children make ramen noodles and eat their pizza and I let them know one thing, and the Mayor and I are united on this.

“We will not forget you, we will not abandon you. We are here for you.”

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