Bronx building residents say fire alarms often go off, ignoring sounds before deadly blazes

Residents of a Bronx apartment building that caught fire on January 9, 2022, said fire alarms often went off and that they ignored early warnings because they thought the smoke detector was a false alarm.

A 19-storey-high building caught fire on Sunday, killing 19 people, including nine children, making it the worst fire in three decades, officials said. Dozens are in hospital, and 13 are in critical care.

Smoke alarms were located throughout the building, but many residents said they were used to hearing false alarms and initially thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until some residents saw smoke and heard cries for help that they realized it wasn’t a false alarm.

“So many of us were so used to hearing that the fire alarm goes off, it was like second nature to us,” said resident Karen DeJesus.

Some residents reported how thick the smoke was, so they could not see anything. The only thing they could do was wait for the firefighters to save them.

Luis Rosa lived on the 13th floor and said he also believed it was another false alarm, but once he opened the door to his apartment to see what was happening, he saw it was smoke.

Rosa didn’t think she could run down the stairs without suffocating. “We could only wait,” he said.

Other residents tried to escape the flames but passed out after inhaling the smoke. Fire Commissioner Daniel Negro said firefighters found victims on every floor and that many had stopped breathing and heart failure.

Investigators determined that the fire was caused by a malfunctioning electric space heater.

Some residents of the burnt-out Bronx apartment building said they ignored fire alarms because they were often going off before the incident. Above, emergency first responders remain at the scene after a massive fire broke out in a 19-story residential building on the morning of January 9, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Scott Haynes / Getty Images

Mayor Eric Adams called it an “unspeakable tragedy” at a news conference near the scene.

“This tragedy is not going to define us,” Adams said. “It’s going to show our resilience.”

Adams lowered the death toll, saying that two fewer people were killed than originally thought. Fire Commissioner Daniel Negro said the patients were taken to seven hospitals and “was a little double.”

City council member Oswald Feliz said children under the age of four were among the dead.

The flames damaged only a small part of the building, but smoke blew through the apartment’s open door and turned into stairs – the only way to escape in a building too tall to escape the fire – dark, ash. In a death trap full of

Adams said the building has self-closing doors and investigators are investigating whether the door is defective.

“There may be a maintenance problem with this door. And it … is going to be part of an ongoing investigation,” Meyer told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Oxygen was given to the lame children after they were taken out. The faces of some of the fleeing people were covered with soot.

Adams said firefighters continued rescue work even after the air supply ran out.

“Their oxygen tanks were empty, and they were still pushing through the smoke,” he said.

Negro said an investigation was underway to find out how the fire spread and whether anything could have been done to prevent or control the fire.

Large, new apartment buildings are required to have sprinkler systems and interior doors that close automatically to block smoke and deprive fires of oxygen, but those rules don’t apply to the city’s thousands of older buildings. .

Dejesus said he thought it was a false alarm. “It wasn’t until I actually saw smoke in the door, I realized it was a real fire, and I started yelling at people, ‘Help! Help! Help!'”

DeJesus, who lives in a two-story apartment with her son and 3-year-old granddaughter, immediately called family members and ran to put a towel under the door. But before the 56-year-old resident could get the towels, smoke started coming down his stairs, so the trio ran to the back of the apartment.

“It was very scary,” she said. “Just the fact that we’re in a building that’s burning and you don’t know how you’re going to get out. You don’t know if the firefighters will get to you in time.”

Firefighters broke down his door and helped secure the three out of the window and down a ladder. On the way, Dijesus clings to his defender.

Hassan Badr says the new York Times That his two siblings, both children were killed and his 25-year-old cousin was left unaccounted for. Badr, 28, waited at Jacobi Medical Center for news about his 12-year-old brother, who was suffering from severe smoke. A 5-year-old sister was in another hospital.

Badr told the newspaper, “I’m thinking like I’m dreaming, it’s not true. You hear people crying, my goodness.” “To be honest, I just can’t believe it.”

Badr’s family of 11 people from Mali lived in a three-bedroom apartment on the third floor.

Mahamadou Tore struggled to put into words his grief outside the hospital’s emergency room, where his 5-year-old daughter and the girl’s teenage brother died. Daily News,

“I have a lot of heart right now…,” backtracked as he spoke to Torrey. New York Daily News, “It’s fine. I give it to God.”

It was the deadliest fire in New York City since 1990, when a arson at the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx also killed 87 people. The borough was also the scene of a deadly apartment building fire in 2017 that killed 13 people and a 2007 fire started by a space heater that killed nine.

Sunday’s fire came just days after a home fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bronx Fire Fatal Heater Apartment
Firefighters work outside an apartment building after a fire broke out in the Bronx on Sunday, January 9, 2022 in New York City.
The Associated Press / Yuki Iwamura