Friday 22 March 2019

Child (3) started NY fire that claimed dozen lives

Firefighters tackle the blaze that ripped through an apartment block in the Bronx
Firefighters tackle the blaze that ripped through an apartment block in the Bronx

New York City's deadliest residential fire in decades was accidentally started by a three-year-old boy playing with the burners on his mother's stove.

The flames spread quickly through the kitchen, then roared through a door the boy's mother had left open as she fled her first floor apartment with the boy and her other child.

A stairwell acted like a chimney, carrying the flames through the entire building within minutes and blocking the main escape route.


Twelve people died, including girls ages one, two and seven and a boy whose age was not given. Two victims were found in a bathtub.

"We were told the boy had a history of playing with the burners and turning them on, and before the mother knew it, this fire had got a good hold of the kitchen," said a fire official.

Excluding the September 11 attacks, it was the deadliest fire in the city since 87 people died in a social club fire in the same Bronx neighbourhood in 1990.

The blaze broke out on the first floor of a five-story building just before 7pm and quickly spread.

Many residents of the building, a mix of native New Yorkers and Latino and African immigrants, were able to flee via fire escapes.

At least 20 people were clambering down the icy, metal escapes when firefighters arrived.

However, the flames moved so quickly that many never made it out of their apartments.

Kenneth Kodua (37) said he left his apartment to get food, leaving his roommate behind, and came back to find people fleeing in a panic.

Hours later, he was still trying to find out whether his roommate had escaped.

"I tried calling her. I tried calling. No answer," he said.

The apartment building had more than 20 units. It was not new enough that it was required to have modern fireproofing, such as sprinklers.

Twum Bredu (61) arrived in the neighbourhood looking for his brother, who had been staying with a family in the building. The couple and their four children got out, but there was no word of his brother.

"I've been calling his phone, it's ringing, but nobody picks up," Bredu said. "He was in his room, and we don't know what happened."

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