A child playing with a stave kindled a massive fire Thursday night that killed at least 12 people, including children, at an apartment building in the Bronx borough of New York City, officials said.
Daniel Nigro, the FDNY’s commissioner, told reporters Friday that a 3 1/2 -year-old child was fiddling around with a stave on the first floor of the building when the flame broke out around 7 p. m.
The mother of the child left the apartment with her two children, leaving the door open which allowed the blaze to spread promptly, he said.
Nigro said the incident was the worst loss of life caused by flames in the city, omitting the September 11 terror attacks, since 87 people were killed at a social club fire in the Bronx in 1990.
More than 170 firefighters were on the site of the four-alarm fire, located at a five-story walk-up apartment house in the Bronx, simply a block from the borough’s famed zoo, FOX5 New York reported. The firefighters worked to battle the blaze in temperatures as low as 15 degrees.
The victims included children aged 1, 2, 7 and an unidentified boy, the FDNY announced. The other victims were three women aged 19, 37, 63, one unidentified woman and four unidentified men. Authorities have not named the victims. Dozens of other victims were rescued with injuries but were expected to recover.
The New York Times reported a woman, her two daughters and her niece were among the dead. They were identified as Karen Stewart-Francis, 37, and her daughters: Kylie Francis, 2, and Kelly Francis, 7 and her niece Shawntay Young, 19.
Stewart-Francis’ mother, told the newspaper that 13 family members resided in the apartment building.
“My daughter. My grandchildren. Tell me, what am I going to do now? ” Ambrozia Stewart said. “Four people I lost.”
The building had no elevator, the Associated Press reported, citing city records. Fire escapes were visible on the facade of the building.
The fire department responded to emergency calls within three minutes.
Witnesses described the site of the flame and the panic from the building’s tenants.
One witness, Xanral Collins, told the New York Post he saw a parent running toward the building, but was unable to enter.
“I considered him hollering, ‘My newborn are dead! My babies are dead! ‘” Collins said.
Jamal Flicker, a witness told the New York Post he heard screams for help.
“The smoke was crazy, people screaming, ‘Get out! ” Flicker said. “I heard a woman yelling, ‘We’re trapped, assistance! ‘”
“I heard a woman scream, ‘We’re trapped, assistance! ‘”
Neighborhood resident Robert Gonzalez, who has a friend who lives in the building, told the Associated Press she got out on a fire escape as another resident fled with five children.
“When I get here, she was crying, ” Gonzalez said.
Kwabena Mensah, who dreaded his son, U.S. Army soldier Emmanuel Mensah, was one of the victims of the devastating flame, corroborated his death to PIX1 1 on Friday.
Mensah’s uncle, Twum Bredu, told The New York Times that his nephew “brough four people out. When he went to bring a fifth person out, the flame caught up with him.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, at a press conference Thursday, recommended that you “hold your families close and keep these households here in the Bronx in your prayers.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report .
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