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Saturday, January 22, 2022

32 Seriously Hurt in Bronx Apartment Building Fire, Officials Say

More than 60 people were hurt, including 32 with life-threatening injuries, in a fire in a Bronx apartment building on Sunday morning in what officials described as one of the city’s worst fires in recent memory.

“The numbers are horrific,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon, adding, “This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times.”

The fire started just before 11 a.m. in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the building, on East 181st Street, according to the Fire Department. Firefighters arrived within three minutes and encountered smoke that extended the entire height of the 19-story building, said the fire commissioner, Daniel A. Nigro.

He added that “the smoke conditions in this building were unprecedented,” and that victims had suffered from severe smoke inhalation.

“We expect there to be numerous fatalities but we don’t know yet,” Commissioner Nigro said, adding that many people had been trapped in their apartments.

Crews entering the building found victims “on every floor” and were taking them out in “cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said.

A total of 63 people were injured. The 32 with life-threatening injuries were taken to five Bronx hospitals. Roughly 200 firefighters battled the blaze, officials said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear on Sunday. Commissioner Nigro said the door to the apartment where the fire started was left open, which helped fuel the fire and allowed the smoke to spread. “We’ve spread the word, ‘close the door, close the door,’” to keep a fire contained, he said.

The 120-unit building, at 333 East 181st Street near Tiebout Avenue, was built in 1972, according to city records.

About 25 windows facing Webster Avenue were blown out. Sheets hung from some of the windows, billowing in the wind.

Officials said the fire called to mind the fire at the Happy Land nightclub in 1990 in the Bronx, which killed 87 people. The club, which operated illegally, had no sprinklers, and several exits were blocked off with roll-down security shutters.

That fire was set deliberately by Julio Gonzalez, who had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend who worked as a ticket taker and coat checker at the club. A bouncer had kicked Mr. Gonzalez out of the club. He returned with a dollar’s worth of gasoline, poured it across the club’s only entrance, and ignited it.

The deadliest fire in the city’s history was in 1911, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in Lower Manhattan, where 146 people died. All but 23 were young women. The fire helped touch off demands for improved safety conditions in factories.

Chelsia Rose Marcius and Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.

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