NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – At least 12 people were killed, including a year old child, when a fire broke out in a Bronx, New York apartment building.
Investigators say the fire was accidentally lit by a three and a half year old boy playing with the burners on his mother’s stove.
Flames ripped through a five-story building around 7 p.m. Thursday night. Based on the loss of life, it quickly became one of the most devastating fires in recent New York City history.
“This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter-century,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Fire officials say it started on the first floor and quickly spread to all five floors of the nearly 100-year-old building. Windows on some of the top floors were smashed and blackened. Firefighters responded within three minutes. They immediately extended their ladders to help residents on every floor. Witnesses say, though, even before help arrived, people inside were scrambling to climb down.
“They started to get people out but people were already on the fire escape already trying to get out on their own that’s how fast it was moving,” said a witness.
Further complicating the effort for the approximately 170 firefighters who responded, the temperatures at the time were in the low teens, single digits with the wind chill.
Many of those who had to rush out of their homes were forced to flee without even getting fully dressed.
“It was like freezing point so it was worse for people who wasn’t (sic) ready and dressed appropriately with no shoes or any of that,” said one man.
The Red Cross quickly responded, handing out blankets. City buses were brought in to keep people warm.