On Sunday morning, New York City’s deadliest fire in decades claimed the lives of 19 Bronx residents and left 63 injured. The fire was so extreme that approximately 200 members of the NYC Fire Department responded and began working tirelessly to save the residents trapped inside the burning apartment building, even after running out of oxygen.
The fire was caused by a malfunctioning space heater, which engulfed the second and third floors of the building at about 10:54 am. The smoke from the blaze proceeded to overwhelm the entire 19-story building.
The apartment building is without fire escapes, and the stairwell doors were left open which allowed smoke to fill the passages and spread throughout the building.
“This smoke extended the entire height of the building – completely unusual,” said FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “Members found victims on every floor, in stairwells, and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest.”
The heroic firefighters rushed into the blazing apartments, finding victims throughout the stairways, many of whom were already in cardiac and respiratory arrest from severe smoke inhalation. Even as their oxygen tanks ran out, the firefighters continued to fight through the smoke to rescue as many residents as possible.
“Their oxygen tanks were empty, and they still pushed through the smoke,” said Mayor Eric Adams, praising the heroic firefighters that saved so many lives that morning.
The New York Post reported on an amazing story in which one of the residents, a 61-year-old terminal cancer patient, was trying to get out of the building with his nephew but they were separated in the chaos and he collapsed in the hallway as the smoke built up around him.
“Next thing I know, the firemen are dragging me into my apartment,” recounted Brannigan.”The firemen smashed all the windows and put oxygen on me.”
After being evacuated, Brannigan was overjoyed to find his nephew waiting safely outside the building. “We won the lottery of life, the big jackpot,” Brannigan said. “We lost everything in the fire. We lost everything. [But] we are the richest people in the world because we won the lottery of life today.”