The latest on the NYC Bronx apartment fire

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 6:37 PM ET, Mon January 10, 2022
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5:10 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

The Bronx fire is second-most deadly US home fire in nearly 40 years, fire group says

From CNN's Kiely Westhoff 

Firefighters stand outside the scene of an apartment building fire as they listen to New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro speak to reporters in the Bronx, New York on January 10.
Firefighters stand outside the scene of an apartment building fire as they listen to New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro speak to reporters in the Bronx, New York on January 10. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

The Bronx fire on Sunday that killed at least 17 people, including eight children, is the second-most deadly US home fire in nearly 40 years, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The fire came just days after another fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people. The death tolls from both fires places them in the top 10 residential fires since 1980, according to the association.

The National Fire Protection Association also reports that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of US home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths and injuries. A malfunctioning electric space heater in a bedroom was the source of the apartment building fire, New York Mayor Eric Adams said Monday.

3:54 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Father of 8 says family's belongings were destroyed in Bronx fire

From CNN's Tami Luhby

Mamadou Wague says the sound of his children screaming jolted him awake.

“Fire! Fire! Get up!”

Wague lives on the third floor of the building with his eight children, who range in age from 6 months to 18 years old.

Wague yelled for everyone to get out. But his family wasn’t able to run out of the building because there was so much smoke, he said. Terrified, they waited in a neighbor’s apartment until firefighters arrived to escort them out 15 to 30 minutes later. The children were crying, he said.

Wague, an Uber driver who immigrated to the United States from Mali in 2000, said the fire burned everything in his family’s apartment.

Now, the family is staying with friends in The Bronx, he says, but he doesn’t know what to do next.

2:57 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

White House: Biden expressed heartfelt condolences and support to NYC mayor

From CNN's Allie Malloy

New York City Mayor Eric Adams during a news conference on Monday outside the apartment building in the Bronx, where a deadly fire occurred.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams during a news conference on Monday outside the apartment building in the Bronx, where a deadly fire occurred. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden expressed his heartfelt condolences and offered support to New York City Mayor Eric Adams following Sunday’s devastating fire at a Bronx apartment building.

“In the wake of this terrible tragedy, the President wanted to reach out to offer comfort and also offer support in case there’s anything the Mayor needs,” Psaki said of the call between Biden and Adams Monday.

Psaki said she was “not aware” of any requests for assistance from the federal government but the White House would remain in close touch with officials in New York.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who was impacted and we’re very appreciative of the heroic work of the first responders who were on the scene so quickly,” Psaki added.

At least 17 people, including eight children, are dead and dozens are injured after a major fire impacted a Bronx apartment building Sunday,

The blaze was caused by a malfunctioning electric space heater, the fire commissioner said.

2:02 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Doors where deadly Bronx fire broke out were not functioning appropriately, fire commissioner says 

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Daniel Nigro, the New York City fire commissioner, said the department was “certain” the fire started with a faulty electrical heater and that while the doors in the building are self-closing, the door to the 15th floor and the door where the fire erupted were not functioning as they should.

The fire itself, he said, was contained to the hallway just outside the two-story apartment, but the smoke traveled causing death and serious injuries.

He said the situation on the 15th floor was particularly “untenable,” due the level of smoke that billowed from the stairwell.

“We do recommend in high rise fire proof buildings that people should shelter in place, and it’s safer to be in your apartment than to venture out and try to get down the stairs sometimes into a much more dangerous situation," he said.

There was much discussion about the door mechanism, and the commissioner took the opportunity to deliver a public service announcement to residents to check and get those issues fixed if they notice them.

He also said the investigation would be looking into whether the alarm system went off regularly or if individuals smoking in hallways set off the alarms, among other potential issues.

Nigro said it did appear the alarms were working as a neighbor called to alert the Fire Department of New York to the building alarm.

Mayor Eric Adams added “we want to be clear here – we don’t want to add further trauma on that family because they fled the apartment…” where the fire started.

“What we don’t want to do is to add more trauma on the family that was simply trying to escape a very dangerous and a very frightening experience" he added.

Christina Farrell, first deputy commissioner of the NYC emergency management department, said that none of the apartments were inhabited last night.

Many of the apartments will be able to be occupied as the week goes on, but many may not be able to be inhabited for quite some time, she said.

The office in conjunction with the Red Cross will continue to look for long-term housing.

1:49 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Federal, state and local leaders announce task force to examine Bronx fire

From CNN's Taylor Romine

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal fire at an apartment building in the Bronx on Sunday.
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal fire at an apartment building in the Bronx on Sunday. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

A group of federal, state and local leaders announced they are forming a task force to examine what policy failures might have contributed to Sunday’s Bronx apartment fire, and said that they will guarantee all victims get services and housing. 

Leaders, including New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents the 15th congressional district which covers most of the South Bronx, said they would focus specifically on policies and potential legislation on the safety of space heaters, which city officials cited as the source of the fire. They will also look into enforcement of self-closing doors, which is already required in New York City, they said. 

Torres was joined by Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and local city council members Oswald Feliz and Pierina Sanchez to announce the initiative on Monday.

At least 17 people died, including eight children, and dozens injured, according to updated numbers from the city.

The focus on legislation is one part of a four-prong plan by leaders, which also includes ensuring permanent housing for the units destroyed, that those displaced in the short term can return to their units as soon as possible and provide any services needed for those affected.  

The landlord has offered to pay for 140 hotel rooms for all those who are displaced, and is also offering some housing unit alternatives at other properties to families whose unit is no longer habitable, said Torres. He also said other landlords have also offered up housing options as well.  

Officials are working with local agencies to help displaced families in the short-term to get them back into their homes as soon as possible, which might be as early as this afternoon, Gibson added. 

A distribution center is also operating at Monroe College in the Bronx, where services and resources will be available to those affected, according to Torres. 

All leaders thanked first responders for quickly arriving and helping those at the scene, and also thanked New Yorkers for the outpouring of support to help the fire victims. 

 

1:20 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

President Biden has promised support, NYC mayor says

President Biden called New York City Mayor Eric Adams to extend his support on Monday as the city reels after a major fire impacted an apartment building in the Bronx borough, leaving at least 17 dead.

"Just a few moments ago, I received a call from President Biden and he has made it clear that whatever we need, the White House is going to be there for us," Mayor Adams said at a news conference on Monday. "He has just sent a very strong message that this is on the radar of the entire globe."

He added, "everyone is feeling the pain of what we are experiencing, but I would tell you this, and I say it over and over again. We're going to get through this moment."

The White House released a statement noting that Biden called Adams to express his condolences.

“Today, the President spoke with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to express his heartfelt condolences and offer support following yesterday’s devastating fire at a Bronx apartment building," the White House said.

CNN's Allie Malloy contributed reporting to this post.

1:12 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

UN secretary-general sends condolences to those affected by Bronx fire

From CNN's Richard Roth

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his condolences to those who died in the Bronx fire on Sunday.

In a tweet sent Monday, Guterres wrote, “I’m deeply saddened by the lives lost in the apartment building fire in the Bronx on Sunday. My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this tragedy, and with our host city New York.”

1:19 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Bronx fire has devastated close-knit immigrant community, Gambia's ambassador to US says 

From CNN's Catherine Shoichet 

Cleaning and recovery crews work outside the apartment building in the Bronx on Monday.
Cleaning and recovery crews work outside the apartment building in the Bronx on Monday. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

The Bronx apartment building that was devastated by a deadly fire had been a beloved home for many immigrants from The Gambia for years, the West African country’s ambassador to the US told CNN.

“I think a lot of Gambians who came here, they stayed there before they moved anywhere else. This was kind of a first port of call, this building. It’s a building Gambians have a lot of attachment to,” Ambassador Dawda Docka Fadera said. “It’s so sad that this horrific and tragic incident took so many lives, and left many people fighting for their lives.”

Fadera traveled from Washington, DC, to New York after learning of the fire, which he says has devastated a close-knit community not only in New York, but in West Africa as well.

“Gambia is a very small country, 2 million people. Everybody knows everybody. We are all related. It’s a shock in our country right now,” he said.

Fadera told CNN he was heading to the hospital to speak with victims of the blaze. He said he is still working with city officials to determine exactly how many Gambians were affected – but there’s no doubt, he says, that the fire has devastated the community.

Fadera said he’s spoken with Gambians who lived in the building and were able to escape.

“They have horrific stories,” he said. “It was very sad. … I have never seen this in my life. This is so tragic. It’s really so huge.”

12:54 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

NYC mayor outlines how to help after the Bronx fire tragedy

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced instructions on how people could help after a major fire impacted a Bronx apartment building on Sunday, leaving 17 dead.

"Please do not drop donations off to fire stations or EMS stations. Let them do their jobs. There are real outlets," he said. "If you want to help financially, we have the mayor's fund to advance New York. Every dollar raised will go directly to the family members that are involved, so this way we can help families in a real way."