New York apartment fire: 17 killed in blaze, city's mayor confirms

10 January 2022, 19:10 | Updated: 10 January 2022, 19:21

Firefighters at the scene of yesterday's blaze
Firefighters at the scene of yesterday's blaze. Picture: Getty

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Seventeen people died in an apartment fire in New York City, eight children and nine adults, New York mayor Eric Adams has confirmed.

It was originally reported that 19 people had died in the blaze in the Bronx area of the city.

At the press conference on Monday, officials also revealed that the self-closing door to the apartment where the blaze started was not functioning.

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Investigators have already determined that a malfunctioning electric space heater, plugged in to give extra heat on a cold morning, started the fire in the 19-story building.

Doctors are still battling to save the lives of people seriously injured when smoke knocked them out or trapped them in their apartments.

Dozens of people are in hospital, several in a critical condition.

Mr Adams told CNN earlier: "We pray to God that they'll be able to pull through."

The flames damaged only a small part of the building, but smoke escaped through the apartment's open door and into stairwells, preventing people from escaping.

Some people could not escape because of the volume of smoke, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, while others became incapacitated as they tried to get out.

Firefighters found victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest, he added.

Mr Adams said firefighters continued making rescues even after their air supplies ran out.

"Their oxygen tanks were empty and they still pushed through the smoke," he said.

The apartment building the day after the blaze
The apartment building the day after the blaze. Picture: Getty

An investigation is ongoing to determine how the fire spread and whether anything could have been done to prevent or contain the blaze.

Large, new apartment buildings in the city are required to have sprinkler systems and interior doors that swing shut automatically to contain smoke and deprive fires of oxygen, but those rules don't apply to thousands of the city's older buildings.

The building is equipped with smoke alarms, but several residents said they initially ignored them because alarms were so common in the building.

The fire was New York City's deadliest since 1990, when 87 people died in an arson at the Happy Land social club, also in the Bronx.

The borough was also home to a deadly apartment building fire in 2017 that killed 13 people and a 2007 fire, also started by a space heater, that killed nine.