Firefighters on empty oxygen tanks pushed through the smoke of a fire that swept through a Bronx high-rise apartment Sunday morning, killing nearly 20 people, including at least nine children, and injuring dozens of others.
A fire official told Fox News there were more than 60 injuries in total, with more than half of those seriously injured.
Four firefighters were among those injured. One of them was seriously injured, though none of their injuries is life-threatening, the fire official said.
Speaking at a Sunday evening press conference, Mayor Eric Adams said the firefighters’ oxygen tanks were empty but “they still pushed through the smoke.”
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“You can’t do this if you don’t feel attached to this city and this community,” Adams said. “I really want to thank them for putting the lives on the line to save lives.”
Adams, joined by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the fire stemmed from a faulty space heater in one of the apartments.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire spanned the second and third floors of the 19-story building. The door of the apartment was left open, allowing smoke to quickly spread throughout the building.
“The smoke conditions in this building are unprecedented,” Nigro added, calling it one of the worst blazes in the city in recent memory.
Adams said many of the building’s residents were immigrants from the West African nation of Gambia and were Muslim. Gov. Hochul said her administration would establish a victim’s compensation to help with housing and burial funds.
“Approximately 200 FDNY members are operating on scene of a 5-alarm fire at 333 East 181 Street in the Bronx,” the New York City Fire Department tweeted earlier Sunday, adding that there were more than 30 “serious injuries to civilians.”
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Smoke inhalation was the cause for the injuries and no one was burned, according to authorities.
The fire started on the second and third floors of the building in a duplex apartment in the Tremont section of the Bronx, the New York Times reported. The fire began just before 11 a.m.
Photos posted online showed a rescue ladder extended up to an eighth-floor window. More than 30 people were transported to five hospitals, with the majority of victims suffering from severe smoke inhalation, Nigro said.
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Nigro compared the severity of the fire to the Happy Land social club fire, which killed 87 people in 1990 when a man set fire to the building after getting into an argument with his former girlfriend and being thrown out of the club.
According to Nigro, Sunday’s fire originated in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors. Firefighters found the door to the apartment open, he said, which apparently allowed the fire to accelerate and quickly spread smoke upward.
The fire is not believed to be suspicious in origin, but the cause is under investigation.
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Sunday’s fire comes just days after a fire erupted in a three-story Philadelphia duplex, killing at least 12 people – including eight children.
The blaze happened at a property owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the four smoke detectors inside the building were not functioning, according to Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.