Firefighters pushed through the smoke of a fire that spread through a Bronx high-rise apartment Sunday morning, killing nearly 20 people, including at least nine children, and injuring dozens of others.
A fire official said there were over 60 injuries, with more than half of those seriously injured.
Four firefighters were among the injured, one was seriously injured, though none of their injuries were life-threatening, the fire official said.
Mayor Eric Adams said at a Sunday press conference that the firefighters’ oxygen tanks were empty but “they still pushed through the smoke.”
“You can’t do this if you don’t feel attached to this city and this community,” Adams said. “I really want to thank them for putting the lives on the line to save lives.”
Adams, joined by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the fire originated from a defective space heater in one of the apartments.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire engulfed the second and third floors of the 19-story building. The door of the apartment was left open, allowing smoke to quickly spread throughout the building.
“The smoke conditions in this building are unprecedented,” Nigro added, calling it one of the worst fires in the city in recent memory.
Adams said many of the residents were immigrants from the West African nation of Gambia and were Muslim. Gov. Hochul said her administration would establish a victim’s compensation to help with housing and burial funds.
“Approximately 200 FDNY members are operating on scene of a 5-alarm fire at 333 East 181 Street in the Bronx,” the New York City Fire Department tweeted earlier Sunday, adding that there were more than 30 “serious injuries to civilians.”
Smoke inhalation was responsible for all the injuries and no one was burned, according to authorities.
The fire started just before 11 a.m. on the second and third floors of the building of a duplex apartment in the Tremont section of the Bronx.
More than 30 people were transported to five hospitals, with the majority of victims suffering from severe smoke inhalation, Nigro said.
Nigro said the severity of the fire was comparable to the Happy Land social club fire, which killed 87 people in 1990 when a man set fire to the building after an argument with his former girlfriend led to him being thrown out of the club.
According to Nigro, Sunday’s fire started in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors. Firefighters said the door to the apartment was open, allowing the fire to accelerate and quickly spread smoke upward.
While the cause of the fire is under investigation it is not believed to be suspicious in origin.
Sunday’s fire comes just days after a fire erupted in a three-story Philadelphia duplex, killing at least 12 people, including eight children.
The property was owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the four smoke detectors inside the building were not functioning, according to Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy.