“Many of the residents were Gambians”: NYC apartment fire leaves 19 people dead, dozens injured

On Sunday morning, January 9th, New York City Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro reported that a malfunctioning electric space heater caused a catastrophic fire incident in a Bronx apartment building, New York City. The fire killed 19 people, including nine children, and injured dozens of others.

According to reports from fire officials, the fire started from one of the second-floor units and then quickly expanded to other areas of the building because the apartment where the fire started was either left open or did not automatically close after residents ran out for safety. 

“The marshals have determined through physical evidence, through firsthand accounts from the residents, that this fire started in a bedroom in a portable electric heater,” NYC fire department chief, Nigro stated 

The portable heater, according to Mr. Nigro was used by residents to warm their apartments and as a supplement to the building’s heating system. New York City has been experiencing severe cold weather in the past days. 

Nigro added that a second door was left open that likely allowed deadly smoke to spread throughout the building. The deadly smoke hospitalized scores of residents and left firefighters running out of oxygen as they struggled to save lives in the 19-story building. 

Many of the residents who died or who were taken to hospitals were likely to have been affected by smoke, he said. “I think some of them could not escape because of the volume of smoke,” Nigro stated

New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams confirmed during a press conference that the majority of the building’s residents and victims originate from The Gambia, West Africa. 

333 East Tremont, Bronx, NYC

Mr. Nigro stated that the 19-story apartment building was built in 1972 and did not have fire escapes, only internal stairwells. 

Officials stated that this fire disaster is the most horrific in New York City for the last 30 years. 

“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at a fire which was over 30 years ago, also here in the Bronx,” Nigro said.

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