Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - Page 5 News List

NY fire lit by child playing with stove: officials

AP, NEW YORK

A preschooler toying with the burners on his mother’s stove accidentally sparked New York City’s deadliest fire in decades, an inferno that quickly overtook an apartment building and blocked the main escape route, the fire commissioner said on Friday.

A dozen people died and four were fighting for their lives a day after the flames broke out in the century-old building near the Bronx Zoo.

The three-year-old boy, his mother and another child were able to flee their first-floor apartment.

However, they left the apartment door open behind them, and it acted like a chimney that drew smoke and flames into a stairwell. From there, the fire spread throughout the five-story building, authorities said.

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development said investigators would look into why the door did not close automatically.

However, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “nothing problematic about the building that contributed to this tragedy.”

At least 20 people scrambled out via fire escapes on a bitterly cold night, but others could not.

“People had very little time to react,” New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Firefighters arrived in just more than three minutes and saved some people, but “this loss is unprecedented,” he added.

The 26-unit apartment building was required to have self-closing doors, which swing shut on their own to keep fires from spreading, housing department spokesman Matthew Creegan said.

Investigators are to look at whether the door to the apartment was defective or if an obstruction prevented it from closing, he said.

No self-closing door violations were issued during an inspection in August, although the city would not have examined every apartment, Creegan said.

Such violations are common: The city cited 7,752 of them last year.

While the doors are required in any apartment building with more than three units, they sometimes do not work properly, because they get clogged or dirty, New York fire safety consultant Jim Bullock said.

About 170 firefighters worked in minus-9.4°C weather to rescue dozens of people.

Residents described opening their front doors to see smoke too thick to walk through and descending icy fire escapes with children in hand. Some escaped barefoot or in their nightclothes.

The building was too old to be required to have modern fireproofing, such as sprinkler systems and interior steel construction.

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