At least 19 people are dead, including nine children, after the city’s deadliest fire in more than 30 years tore through a Bronx apartment building Sunday morning, according to a police official.
The five-alarm blaze broke out just before 11 a.m. at 333 E 181st St, a 19-story building in the West Bronx, the FDNY said.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in the City of New York in modern times,” Mayor Eric Adams said.
Around 200 FDNY members responded to battle the inferno.
Among the dead is a 4-year old, according to police sources. Fire officials said that at least 32 people sustained life-threatening injuries.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said authorities “expect there to be numerous fatalities, but we don’t know yet.”
Adams, speaking from the scene of the blaze Sunday, called it “a horrific, horrific painful moment for the City of New York.”
“The impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of pain and despair in this city,” the mayor said at a press conference.
Among 63 residents injured, 32 had life-threatening injuries, nine had serious injuries, and 22 were treated with non-life-threatening injuries, Adams said. One FDNY member was also injured and brought to the hospital.
Nigro said at a presser that the department responded within three minutes and the fire spanned the second and the third floors.
“This smoke extended the entire height of the building, completely unusual,” he said. “Members found victims on every floor in stairwells.”
Nigro called the fire “unprecedented in our city.”
“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at Happy Land Fire over 30 years ago here in the Bronx.”
Fire officials don’t yet know the origin of the fire.
“What I do know…is that the door to that apartment was left open causing the fire to spread and smoke to spread, which is always a problem for us. As we see here by the broken windows throughout the building, this fire took its toll on our city,” he said.
The building currently stands as a shell of its former self, with windows and multiple floors broken and obvious fire damage on the lower floors.
Cristal Diaz, 27, a resident of the 15th floor, grabbed cousins, her aunt and dog “Fluffy” when she realized there was a fire.
“I was drinking coffee in the living room and I started smelling smoke. We started putting water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy,” Diaz said. “We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they were taking with the blankets.
Alanny, 13, her niece, said, “We saw moms fainting. They saw their kids dying.”
“We saw a bunch of bodies coming out. People from my childhood were dying,” Alanny said.
Christopher Carrasquilo, 65, who lives next door, ran into the building to help save residents.
“A little kid was stuck in the elevator. I had to bring him down. It was something like 9/11,” he said with tears in his eyes.
“They need fire escapes. They gotta put fire escapes,” he said. “The owner who owns this building gotta do something about it.”
The FDNY said buildings of this height never have fire escapes.
Icy conditions made it tough to fight the fire, and the FDNY said it took more than an hour to put down the blaze.
Rachel McKenzie, a ninth floor resident, was in tears at the scene. “It is all too much. Oh God,” she said. “They’re still looking for women and children. I can’t talk.”
Another ninth floor resident, Fatima, who declined to give her last name, said she is blessed to be alive.
“You can’t explain it. Thank god I found my 3-year-old daughter. We went down the stairwell and it was pitch black. You couldn’t see a thing,” she said. “We went onto the 6th floor and a neighbor let us in and we stayed there until the firemen took us out. It was traumatizing.”
Harrowing images from the scene show a firefighter cradling a baby rescued from the fire, a victim on a stretcher, and a woman sitting on the ground being helped by paramedics with soot on her face.
“Something like this happens, but you never expect this to happen to you,” Diaz said.
Before Sunday, the city’s deadliest blaze in more than a quarter-century killed 13 people —including a year-old child — in a Bronx apartment building the night of Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. That fire was 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.