New York City officials had flagged busted fire doors before Bronx tower inferno.
New York City experienced its deadliest fire in 30 years this past weekend when a malfunctioning space heater caused a blaze that filled a high-rise Bronx apartment building with thick smoke and killed 19 people.
Trapped residents broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under doors as smoke rose from a lower-floor apartment where the fire started. Survivors told of fleeing in panic down darkened hallways and stairs, barely able to breathe.
Multiple limp children were seen being given oxygen after they were carried out. Evacuees had faces covered in soot.
Firefighters found victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest, said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. Some could not escape because of the volume of smoke, he said.
Some residents said they initially ignored wailing smoke alarms because false alarms were so common in the 120-unit building, built in the early 1970s as affordable housing.
The investigation into all the factors that resulted in this tragedy is continuing. At this point, it appears that the failure of the unit’s self-closing stairwell doors to close was a contributing factor in the death toll. Records indicate that this building has a citation for this issue previously.
Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro singled out malfunctioning self-closing doors during a Monday press conference as a key reason smoke from the flames quickly engulfed much of the 19-story tower in the Twin Parks Northwest complex Sunday, killing at least eight kids and nine adults.
The fire initially erupted in a duplex apartment that spans the second and third floor — and the damage from the flames was confined to that part of the building, according to Nigro.
But Nigro said the failure of the unit’s self-closing door to properly shut allowed the toxic smoke to billow out into the hall. That failure was further compounded as at least one other broken door on higher floors allowed the toxic air to spread.
“The stairwell was very dangerous as the door was left open and some of the floors — certainly on 15 — the door was open from the stairs to the hall and the 15th floor became quite untenable,” he said.
However, social justice advocates never let a tragedy go to waste. It appears the space heater that was the source of the fire is a ‘symbol of inequity‘.
The deadly fire that claimed the lives of 17 people in a high-rise tower in the Bronx is a grim reminder of how space heaters can be a “symbol of inequity,” [Julie Colon, a tenant organizer with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition] said, representing dangerous housing conditions, poor infrastructure, and neglect in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Many of those displaced in this week’s fire are families originally from Gambia in West Africa.
“The space heater for me is just the scariest thing,” she said.
Space heaters can be used safely. Focusing on “inequity” will not address the reasons the doors were not functioning properly, or all the other facility and procedural issues that created the conditions for the loss of life.DONATE
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