Bronx apartment building fire that killed 19 people – including nine children – likely was caused by SPACE HEATER being used to keep bedroom warm:
Survivors tell of ‘horrific’ ordeal escaping burning building as terrified residents screamed for help.
New York City’s worst fire disaster in more than 30 years was sparked by a faulty space heater, officials confirmed on Sunday night – killing nine children and ten adults, and leaving dozens more critically injured.
The five-alarm blaze erupted shortly before 11am on the second and third floor of a 19-story building at 333 East 181st Street in the Bronx.
FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro said that ‘very heavy’ fire and smoke ‘extended the entire height of the building.’
He confirmed that a space heater caused the blaze.
‘We are investigating where everyone was found, and how the smoke travelled.
‘But marshals have determined that this fire started in a bedroom, in a portable heater.
‘The heat was on in the building. This was being used to supplement the heat.’
Nigro said that the smoke alarms were on, and working, in the 1972-built apartment block.
‘There were functioning smoke alarms throughout the building,’ he said.
‘The first call was a resident hearing the smoke alarm and reporting it.’
There have not been any major building violations or complaints listed against the building, according to city building records obtained by CNN. Past minor violations were rectified by the property and there were no structural violations listed.
The New York Post reported that there were more than two dozen violations and complaints since 2013 – despite $25 million in state loans for repairs.
The citations, including for vermin infestation and faulty elevators, came after the 2013 infusion of state cash — and before the building was sold to an investment group two years ago.
The building was most recently the subject of a DOB complaint on March 25 for not having a working elevator, with a similar complaint filed on April 9, 2019.
Another complaint cited scaffolding that did not meet safety standards in 2015.
Several residents said the fire alarms were always going off, and residents ignored them.
‘First we heard the fire alarm go off. Numerous times,’ said Michael Joseph, 32, who lived on the sixth floor with his uncle.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘But we didn’t think nothing of it, because normally people in the building, they smoke and tend to set it off.
‘So we thought it was probably just people playing.’
He also recounted he and his uncle’s desperate escape, with the scene in the stairwell described as ‘the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen.’
‘We looked out the window and we saw all the fire people. Firefighters, firefighters, firefighters,’ said Joseph.
‘The smoke came through our door.
‘Our whole house was jet black – smoke so thick we couldn’t breathe.
‘We almost died in there.’
Joseph, who has lived in the apartment for six years, said he and his uncle tried to stem the smoke pouring in.
‘We tried everything – we tried to put a fan on. We tried to stay in the bathroom. Nothing worked,’ he said.
‘So it got to the point where I said, we have to go.
‘We have to do something now, or else we’ll die in here.’
Joseph said he and his uncle decided to make a run for it.
‘So I finally opened the door – and in the hallway it was all gone.
‘It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen.
‘So he passed out.
‘So I had to go through the staircase and all you see is people trampling over each other, people getting hurt, stomped on, all kind of things.
‘It was flooded with water and smoke.
‘And I finally got to the bottom and I sent them to get my uncle.
‘That’s why he is alive now.’
Joseph said he was relieved to have survived the ordeal.
‘They made us wait until the laundromat until it was all clear.
‘We did make it. And they sent us here.’
He said the authorities were helping, and he had been given a hotel for the night.
‘We are getting shelter, food, clothes,’ he said.
‘We have to wait. They are allowing people to go in to get their medication and that’s it.
‘I just feel so bad for those who lost.’
His uncle, Joseph Brannigan, 61, who has terminal cancer, thanked the fire department for saving him.
‘My nephew said, ‘Joey, we have to get down the stairs, and I said, ‘We can’t. There’s too much smoke in the hallway,” Brannigan told The New York Post.
‘He said, ‘C’mon, we’re going to die in here.’
‘As we tried to get out of the apartment, he grabbed my hand. I lost his hand, and I said, ‘Where are you?’ I collapsed on the floor of my hallway.
‘Next thing I know, the firemen are dragging me into my apartment.
‘The firemen smashed all the windows and put oxygen on me.’
He said he was overjoyed to have survived.
‘We won the lottery of life, the big jackpot,’ Brannigan said.
‘We lost everything in the fire. We lost everything. [But] we are the richest people in the world because we won the lottery of life today.’
Chanasia Hunter, who lives on the 10th floor, agreed that the fire alarms would go off frequently.
She told CNN affiliate WABC: ‘How are supposed to know it’s a fire if it’s always going off?’
She said the only way she found out the fire alarm was legitimate was when a person who lived on the third floor – where the flames were burning – called her.
‘I looked out the back of the window and that’s where we see the fire just fighting outside the window, and they have to break open the windows to let people out,’ Hunter said.
‘We heard screaming, we saw the windows bursting out. We saw people getting saved.’
Hunter said she was able to escape because officials knocked on her door. She said smoke was coming into people’s apartments.
‘I was coming down the stairs and saw a body sitting on the floor. This is crazy, this building has been here for years and this has never happened before,’ she said.
‘I’m just sad because this is like a family.
‘We lost a lot of lives, and it hurts very bad, especially children and even elders. I see these people every day, it’s hurtful.’