On a frigid night in the Bronx, at least 12 people, included an infant, were killed and four others suffered life-threatening injuries in the deadliest fire in New York City in nearly three decades.
The four-alarm blaze in a century-old, five-story walk-up building on Prospect Avenue, a block from the Bronx Zoo, started on the first floor, said New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who called it “historic in its magnitude.”
The fire spread through the building, claiming victims as young as 1 year old and as old as 50. The department responded within three minutes of the first call at 6:51 p.m., and more than 160 firefighters fought the fire, whose cause wasn’t immediately evident, according to city officials.
One resident, who declined to give her name, told The New York Times that she had escaped with her daughter and two children from a neighbor’s family but had to leave other children behind as she fled: “I had one on my front and one on my back. I couldn’t carry the rest of them.”
Others described fleeing down the front fire escape after blinding smoke poured through closed windows, and then seeing charred bodies on the streets outside.
Nearby Crotona International High School was opened as a reception center for displaced building residents, while victims of the blaze were taken to Jacobi Medical Center and St. Barnabas Hospital. The city activated its Unified Victim Identification System, first developed after 9/11 to track the dead, wounded, and missing after a major disaster. The system allows anyone concerned about someone who may have been affected by the fire to call 311 and see whether the city has information about them.
“This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter century,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the Bronx late Thursday night, after firefighters had the blaze under control.
“It will rank as one of the worst losses in a fire in many years… Hold your families close and keep these families here in the Bronx in your prayers.”