Bronx Apartment Building Fire That Killed 19 People – Including Nine Children – Likely Was Caused by Space Heater Being Used to Keep Bedroom Warm: Homeowner Left Door Open as They Fled, Spreading Smoke and Heat to Every Floor

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 Dan 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.’

Asked whether people knew how to escape, Nigro said: ‘On buildings like this there are no fire escapes. There are interior stairways. So people would have been aware of the exits.

‘I think some of them could not escape due to the volume of smoke.’

He added: ‘Members found victims on every floor, in stairwells.

‘The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was a fire which was over 30 years ago, also here in the Bronx,’ he added.

Commissioner Nigro said the door to the apartment where the fire started was left open, which helped fuel the fire and allowed the smoke to spread.

‘We’ve spread the word, ‘close the door, close the door,’ to keep a fire contained, he said.

Julia Fowler, who lives on the ninth floor, told DailyMail.com that a relative told her to flee.

‘My sister got an alert from Citizen app, she told me it was a fire,’ said Fowler.

‘When I looked on Citizen app it was behind my building, and that’s when I saw it.

‘I heard people screaming ‘fire, fire’ – you know, my sister told me don’t go out

‘I was going to open the door, my sister told me not to. They told us to stay inside.

‘We saw a lot of people run to the ambulance, rushing.’

She said she was unsure if anyone she knows was affected.

‘It looked as if it started from the back of the building. I told my kids to get up, get dressed, just in case. We had the window open, but the smoke was so heavy, we closed it

‘The fire department banged on the door, asked if we were okay, and said stay inside.

‘I have a 10 year-old, he’s asthmatic, He threw up a little bit. He was shaking.

‘We left after fire department said it was safe. Our apartment wasn’t damaged.’

Fowler’s daughter Aesha Jones, 28, who lives in Harlem, said she rushed to the scene on hearing about the fire.

‘I wasn’t here, I saw it on the news and I rushed over,’ she told DailyMail.com.

She said she was terrified for her family, but added: ‘Everyone got out safely, thank God.

‘My sister was actually waking up with flames at her window. Thank God she didn’t get contact with smoke inhalation.

‘I spoke to the mayor, he said the mayor’s office is going to order hotels for the families. Red Cross is out too.

‘A couple of my family’s friends passed away, sadly.’

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Source: Daily Mail