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Tragic Bronx Fire Leaves 19 Dead and Plenty of Questions

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

A horrific fire broke out in a Bronx high-rise apartment building on Sunday morning around 11 am, leaving 19 dead and at least 32 injured from the blaze.  It took firefighters almost an hour to extinguish the blaze which started after a space heater was left on. 

According to the NY Post, “

Around 200 FDNY members responded to battle the inferno, which officials say broke out in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors when the space heater malfunctioned in a bedroom.

 A door left open in the apartment where the fire originated allowed the smoke to spread throughout the building, officials said.

Engine 48 was the first team to respond to the fire but apparently was short-staffed because of the coronavirus.”

Some residents noted that the fire alarm system often goes off and residents ignore it because of so many false alarms.  This may have led to the tragedy, at least in part.  Investigators said they will investigate the alarm system for defects. 

The door of the apartment where the space heater was located was left ajar, allowing billows of smoke to fill the rest of the building leading to many residents being trapped in the inferno.

Another issue related at the scene concerned an understaffed fire department. 

“They only had four firefighters instead of the five they are called for because of people out sick because of COVID,” said the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro, calling the blaze the worst the city has seen since 9/11.

“We feel this is an absolute case where staffing would have made a difference.

“Several of the first engines were in the same situation. If there was adequate staffing, the fire could have been put out faster, and people would have received medical aid sooner,” he said.

FDNY officials denied the assertion, saying responding units were fully staffed at the time.

Among the 63 residents injured, 32 had life-threatening injuries, nine had serious injuries, and 22 were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Adams said. One FDNY member was also injured and brought to the hospital.

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