doors that may have fueled the New York fire under investigation | Top news

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By Carlo Allegri and Brendan O’Brien

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Authorities in New York on Monday said the city was investigating a possible “maintenance issue” with doors that did not close when a devastating fire broke out at a Bronx apartment building an day earlier, killing 17 people, including eight children.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, after just over a week on the job, said in a briefing that the city’s medical examiner determined that the blaze had claimed two fewer victims than the 19 reported Sunday.

The fire broke out on Sunday morning at the 19-story Twin Parks North West building, which provided affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers. Most of the residents were from the large Gambian community that lived in the neighborhood.

“This is a global tragedy because the Bronx and New York City are representative of the ethnicities and cultures of the world,” Adams said during a briefing outside the building. “This is an evolving crisis. An unspeakable tragedy.”

Adams said he spoke with US President Joe Biden, who has promised the White House will provide “everything” New York City needs to deal with the aftermath of the blaze.

The disaster was likely to raise questions about safety standards in city social housing. It was the second major fire at a residential complex in the United States this week after 12 people, including eight children, were killed early Wednesday when flames swept through a public apartment building in Philadelphia.

Clean-up crews dressed in white hazmat suits were on scene to clean glass and debris from sidewalks Monday as firefighters and fire officials continued to examine the interior and exterior of the building.

The street was cordoned off where a small group of people gathered, some bringing clothes and others bringing donations to help the victims.

THE FIRE START BY THE WATER HEATER

Firefighters determined from physical evidence and testimonials from residents that the fire started in a portable electric heater in a bedroom in an apartment that spanned the second and third floors of the building . The heating was on in the building and the portable heater supplemented that heating, they said.

Earlier today on “Good Morning America,” Adams said smoke from the fire may have spread due to an apartment door opening. Apartment doors should close automatically to prevent fires from spreading through the building.

“There may have been a maintenance issue with this door and that will be part of the ongoing investigation,” Adams said. “All of this will come out during the investigation.”

Investigators are also investigating the possibility that a door to the 15th floor staircase might not work as it should, Fire Marshal Daniel Nigro said, adding that residents would have been safer if they had stayed in their homes. apartments rather than going down the stairs.

Nigro said firefighters did not yet have a count of the number of casualties found in apartments, stairwells and hallways.

He added that the stairwells were “very dangerous” during the emergency due to the smoke filling the area.

Addressing the revised death toll, Nigro said the patients had been taken to seven different hospitals in the city, which led to “a bit of a double count.”

Some 60 people were injured in the blaze and 32 people were hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, officials said on Sunday.

More than 200 firefighters took part in extinguishing the blaze.

“A lot of them, their oxygen tanks were empty,” Adams said Monday. “But instead of turning around and getting out of the building, they pushed through the smoke.”

The building is owned by a joint venture, Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, made up of three companies: LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners and Camber Property Group.

The building was constructed in 1972 as part of a public program to provide affordable housing, a spokesperson for the joint venture said. The 120 units are covered by grant programs, the spokesperson said.

Four religious leaders, including the Reverend Kevin McCall, held a prayer vigil with spectators outside the apartment on Monday morning. McCall, who is pastor at Ointed by God Ministry in the Brooklyn office in New York, called on Adams to sign an executive order that the city provide heat to residents whenever the weather forecast drops below 30 degrees.

“We shouldn’t have to wait for the owner to find out,” said McCall, who identified himself as a civil rights leader and founder of Crisis Action Center. “He should have emotional intelligence and sign an executive order immediately.”

(Reporting by Carlo Allegri in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, editing by Nick Zieminski)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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