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2022 Bronx apartment fire

2022 Bronx apartment fire
2022 Bronx apartment fire is located in Bronx
2022 Bronx apartment fire
Twin Parks North West building's location in the Bronx.
2022 Bronx apartment fire is located in New York City
2022 Bronx apartment fire
Twin Parks North West building's location in New York City
2022 Bronx apartment fire is located in New York
2022 Bronx apartment fire
2022 Bronx apartment fire (New York)
DateJanuary 9, 2022
Timec. 10:55 a.m. EDT (UTC−05)
Location
Coordinates40°51′14″N 73°53′53″W / 40.85389°N 73.89806°W / 40.85389; -73.89806Coordinates: 40°51′14″N 73°53′53″W / 40.85389°N 73.89806°W / 40.85389; -73.89806
TypeHigh-rise fire
CauseElectric space heater
Deaths17
Non-fatal injuries44

On the morning of January 9, 2022, smoke inhalation from a high-rise fire killed 17 people, including 8 children, at the Twin Parks North West, Site 4, high-rise apartment building in the East Tremont neighborhood of the Bronx, New York City, U.S. The identity of 14 victims has now been identified. Forty-four persons were injured, and 32 with life-threatening injuries were sent to five different borough hospitals. 15 were in critical condition as of January 10, 13 of whom were said to be "clinging to their lives."

It was the third-worst residential fire in the United States in four decades, and the deadliest fire in New York City since the Happy Land nightclub fire in 1990, which occurred nearby and claimed 87 lives. The Bronx fire was also the second major residential fire in the Northeastern United States within a one-week period, occurring four days after a fire in Philadelphia public housing resulted in 12 deaths.

Investigators determined that the fire was caused by a defective space heater which burst into flames. Smoke billowed through the building because of two malfunctioning self-closing doors, causing deaths throughout the building. The fire was largely confined to one apartment; all victims died from smoke inhalation.

Background

The 19-story residential building, Twin Parks North West, Site 4, contains 120 apartments. It is located on 333 East 181st Street near Tiebout Avenue in the East Tremont section (some reports refer to its location as the Fordham or Tremont neighborhoods). It was built in 1972 as part of a state program to provide affordable housing.

Twin Parks North West is part of the much larger Twin Parks development project, comprising a series of affordable apartment buildings, containing 1,900 apartments, which were constructed across the East Tremont neighborhood during the 1970s. The Twin Parks complex was named in honor of two nearby city parks, Bronx Park and Crotona Park.

The Twin Parks North West apartment building on East 181st Street, along with the larger Twin Parks complex, were conceived as a partnership between local Bronx faith groups and then-New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s Public Design Committee to provide affordable housing in East Tremont. East Tremont and its surrounding neighborhoods suffered from numerous issues related to urban decay and population loss at the time of its construction. Twin Parks North West, and its sister buildings in Twin Parks development, were seen as an affordable solution to large scale public housing blocks and ageing row homes and tenement buildings in the immediate area. It is estimated that East Tremont was losing up to 1,000 housing units per year to abandonment and arson fires by the early 1970s.

The residential high-rise apartment building was constructed and funded by the New York City Urban Development Corporation, headed by urban planner, Edward J. Logue. Notable architectural firms and architects were commissioned to design each of the Twin Parks affordable apartment buildings, including The Architects Collaborative, Giovanni Pasanella, Richard Meier, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Public spaces and building facades were designed with input from the local community. The design for Twin Parks North West included a playground, covered patio, an herb garden, and a laundry room located on the ground floor.

In 1974, Twin Parks was the subject of a Canadian documentary by filmmaker Michel Régnier.

Twin Parks North West, Site 4, is currently owned and operated by a private partnership between LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners, and Camber Property Groupalong, who purchased it along with other Bronx buildings in early 2020. Camber’s co-founders include Rick Gropper, a housing adviser to Mayor Eric Adams.

At the time of the 2022 fire, the building housed a large West African and Muslim population, notably many immigrants from The Gambia, as well as smaller communities from Mali and Burkina Faso. Most of the Gambian and Gambian American residents of the building are from the same town of Allunhari (also spelled Allunhare), a community of approximately 5,500 people in the Upper River Division of The Gambia. Gambians from Allunhari began moving to the building around 1980.

Sequence of events

Just before 11 a.m. EST, an electric space heater ignited a fire in a duplex apartment on the second and third floor. The building's fire alarm system was triggered immediately.

Smoke quickly spread from the unit's open door to the rest of the building, injuring and killing other residents attempting to evacuate. The fire itself was contained to the apartment and the adjacent hallway.

Within 3 minutes after ignition, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and other emergency services began arriving. Rescuers found victims suffering from severe smoke inhalation on every floor of the building, some of them in cardiac or respiratory arrest. The main challenge to firefighters' progress was the massive quantity of smoke generated by the fire, which extended the entire height of the building. Many continued to work through the life-threatening conditions even after exhausting their oxygen supplies. Around 200 firefighters responded in total, and the incident was ultimately upgraded to a five-alarm fire.

The fire was declared under control by 3:30 p.m. Seventy-two people were taken to local hospitals, of whom 34 were under age 18.

Investigation

Ignition source

FDNY investigators determined that the fire was caused by an electric space heater. The device had ignited a mattress after being left to run continuously for a "prolonged period." As of January 2022, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was investigating if the space heater itself had malfunctioned. One resident stated that cold indoor temperatures were an ongoing problem requiring the additional use of space heaters; while the building incurred 3 heating-related complaints in 2021, none were outstanding at the time of the fire. New York City housing laws require that landlords maintain indoor temperatures of at least 68 °F (20 °C) during the day, but a 2017 housing survey estimated that nearly 27% of households in the Fordham neighborhood utilized supplemental heat sources like space heaters.

Spread

The fire (and initial propagation of smoke) were stoked by the involved unit's door remaining open after its occupants had escaped. While the building did not (nor was required to) have sprinklers in most areas, it did conform to a 2018 city law requiring self-closing mechanisms on all apartment doors in buildings containing more than 3 units. According to the property owners, maintenance staff checked the involved unit's self-closing mechanism in July 2021 and it was found to be in working order. After the fire, investigators found it inoperable—along with those on several other doors throughout the building. Among the other failed mechanisms were one on a 15th floor stairwell door; this second open door created a flue effect that rapidly accelerated the spread of heavy smoke throughout the rest of the building. Commissioner Nigro described this a "very dangerous" situation, adding that both doors were "not functioning as they should."

Response and evacuation

There were no known issues with the building's fire or smoke alarms, which activated immediately. Although the first 9-1-1 calls were placed by neighbors who heard the alarms, some residents claimed that false alarms were common and many initially believed that there was no fire or need to evacuate. The fire itself was ultimately confined to the duplex apartment and the adjacent hallway, but heavy smoke quickly impeded visibility for escaping occupants. Some residents recalled that the stairwells were especially lethal during the incident, and one reported "tripping over bodies." In a post-incident press conference, Commissioner Nigro said that when fires occur in high-rise fireproof buildings, "people should shelter in place," and that "it’s safer to be in your apartment than to venture out and try to get down the stairs and sometimes into a much more dangerous situation.

Victims and aftermath

Seventeen people were killed, including eight children, and 44 people were injured, with 13 "clinging to their lives". All the deaths and most injuries were due to smoke inhalation. Earlier reports gave higher death and injury counts, which were revised downward the following day. New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the day after the fire that the death toll may rise.

Among the victims were an entire Gambian immigrant family of five, including three children ranging in age from 5 to 12, who fled an apartment on the top floor only to be overcome by smoke.

Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, announced that the city authorities would work to ensure Islamic funeral and burial rites for those killed in the fire would be respected, and Muslim leaders would be sought to help with the process and aid residents.

See also

This page was last updated at 2022-01-12 12:57 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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