Fire and rescue personnel battle the raging flames on Thursday
The city’s deadliest inferno in more than a quarter-century was likely sparked by a young child playing with a stove in a first-floor unit, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
“What we think at this point is unfortunately it emanated from an accident — a young child playing with a stove on the first floor,” de Blasio said while speaking local radio station, WNYC.
“It spread rapidly upward … accidental from everything we can see,” the mayor said.
The fast-moving five-alarm Bronx blaze, which killed 12, including children, quickly spread to the top floor of the Prospect Avenue building in the Belmont section of the borough Thursday night.
The body of a victim is carried out by rescue personnel
Despite city records indicating that the building had at least one open violation involving a defective carbon monoxide detector, and a faulty smoke detector in an apartment on its first floor.
But de Blasio said it appears “there was nothing problematic about the building that contributed to this tragedy.”
The mayor added: “The reminder is be very, very careful with your children anywhere near a source of fire … keep them away and create as many barriers as possible.”
Aeriel view of the fire on Thursday night, as firefighters use boom cranes to reach the upper floors
Authorities feared the death toll could rise from the fire, which began at 6:51 p.m. and gutted 2363 Prospect Ave. in the Belmont neighborhood near the Bronx Zoo.
“We’re here at the scene of an unspeakable tragedy in the middle of the holiday season, a time when families are together,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press briefing at the scene, where bone-chilling temperatures were in the teens.
“Tonight, here in the Bronx, there are families that have been torn apart. This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter-century.”
One Family’s loss in the deadly inferno
Four members of the same family, including two young children, were among the 12 victims killed in the Bronx apartment fire, relatives said Friday.
“I feel so empty… so lost,” Elain Williams, who lives in a basement apartment of 2363 Prospect Ave., said outside of the fire-ravaged building where several of her family members lived – and four died.
Elain Williams’ 19-year-old daughter, Shawntay Young, [left], was visting her aunt Karen Stewart and got caught in the blaze along with her 6-year-old niece, Kelly Francis, [right]
Williams also lost her sister, Karen Stewart, 37, [right], and her 2-year-old niece, Kiley Francis all of whom perished in the blaze. Her brother-in-law, Francis Holt, is recovering in an area hospital from injuries
In Thursday night’s fast-moving five-alarm blaze, Williams lost her sister, Karen Stewart, 37, her 19-year-old daughter, Shawntay Young, and her two nieces, Kelly Francis, 6, and Kiley Francis, 2, the devastated woman said.
Williams added that her brother-in-law, Francis Holt, was recovering in an area hospital from injuries he suffered during the 6:50 p.m. fire, which started on the first floor of the five-story building in the Belmont section of the borough.
FDNY personnel ushers young resident to safety om Thursday night
The fire stands to be the deadliest New York City blaze since 87 people perished in March 1990 in the Happy Land social-club arson attack, which took place less than a mile away.
About 170 firefighters worked Thursday night to control the blaze in the five-story building just a block from the zoo, authorities said.
“Based on the information now, I’m very sorry to report 12 New Yorkers are dead, including one child as young as 1-year-old,” Mayor de Blasio said.
“There are four people critically injured who are fighting for their lives. Other serious injuries as well.”
A firefighter’s shadow inside the fire-torn building on Prospect Avenue. 12 dead after fire swept through the Bronx apartment building
Authorities said, the one-year-old was found in a bathtub, cradled in the arms of her mother, who apparently was trying to protect her child from the flames, sadly both had perished.
De Blasio warned that more victims could be found as investigators go through the building: “We may lose others as well.”
Thierme Diallo, who lives on the first floor, ran shoeless out of the burning building into the freezing night in only a bathrobe.
“I was in my bed sleeping . . . and somebody knock on the door shouting, ‘We have fire in the building. Get out! Get out!’ ” said Diallo.
“I don’t know how I get out, no socks, nothing. I left my cellphone there, I took only my wallet. I had to save myself. Then, by the exit, I saw the glass coming down like flames.”
The fire started on the first floor, quickly spread upstairs into the five-story building with 25 apts, leaving fatalities on all floors.
Among the missing is 28-year-old Emmanuel Mensah, who serves in the Army and was home for the holidays, according to his dad, Kwabena Mensah.
“When they rescued [others] . . . they couldn’t find him,” the worried dad said.
Witnesses said they were amazed at how quickly the flames spread. The blaze was seen shooting up the building’s main stairwell, choking off that one crucial escape path, law enforcement sources said.
Flames accelerated when they reached a natural gas line, sources said.
“It got bad quick,” said one local resident named
“People were on the fire escapes getting out before [rescuers] showed up, and the firemen got there quick.
“You could see the smoke going through the building,” she said.
Another witness, Jamal Flicker, said he spotted flames erupting near trash cans.
“It started down where they take the garbage,” he said.
“The smoke was crazy, people screaming, ‘Get out!’ I heard a woman yelling, ‘We’re trapped! Help!’ ”
According to FDNY Commissioner, Daniel Nigro, the blaze which was “without question historic in its magnitude”…. “ started on the first floor, quickly spread upstairs into this . . . five-story building with 25 apartments.
“People died on various floors of the apartment. We won’t tell you anything more about it other than they range in ages from 1 to over 50,” Nigro said.
“Our hearts go out to every family that lost a loved one here and everyone that’s fighting for their lives,” the commissioner said.