TREMONT, Bronx (WABC) – Hospitals are working desperately to save the lives of more than a dozen people seriously injured by smoke in a blaze that has killed 17 people, including eight children, in the Bronx, while the investigation focuses on a door that should have closed automatically but did not.

FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro said the deceased were taken to seven different hospitals, and explained the review from 19 to 17 deaths following double counting in two cases.

However, he said seriously injured victims remained and he prepared the community for a possible increase in the death toll.

About 200 firefighters battled the five-alarm blaze that started on the third floor of the 19-story Twin Parks North West apartment building, located at 333 East 181st Street in the Tremont section, just before 11 a.m. Sunday.

At least 44 people were injured, 13 of whom are said to have “grabbed their lives” in nearby hospitals. Several are intubated.

Nigro said the FDNY is certain the cause was a faulty electric heater that set a mattress on fire.

While the fire was contained in the duplex where it broke out on the 2nd and 3rd floors and in the adjacent hallway, smoke spread throughout the building. It was the smoke that caused the deaths.

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Mayor Adams said his takeaway from the blaze was to “close the door”. He said the city would remind New Yorkers of this message.

The fire apartment door and the 15th floor door did not automatically close as they should, allowing smoke to escape and rise throughout the building.

Mamadou Wague told Eyewitness News reporter Josh Einiger that a fire had broken out in his third-floor duplex, where he lives with his wife and eight children, one of whom was trapped on a burning bed.

Wague has burns on his nose when he jumped through the flames to save his daughter, who is burnt but alive.

“We were sleeping and my kids were screaming, ‘Fire, fire!’” He said. “So I see the fire in the mattress, and I said to everyone, ‘Get out, get out.'”

The flames were confined to the apartment and the smoke detectors worked, but the open door allowed thick smoke to escape through the building and into the stairwells as residents attempted to escape.

“They close automatically, but the door to 15 and the door to the fire department’s apartment were not working as they should,” Nigro said. “The door was not obstructed. The door when fully open stayed fully open because it malfunctioned.”

Firefighters described a hellish scene.

“It was absolutely horrible,” said Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro. “I have spoken to many veteran firefighters who have said it was the worst fire they have seen in their lives. They were doing CPR on people outside. It was absolutely horrible. The members. operated with the utmost heroism. Unfortunately, not all fires have a positive outcome. This is horrible. This fire will be with these members forever.

Patients are distributed across hospitals like Jacobi Medical Center, Westchester Medical Center, and New York Presbyterian Hospital / Cornell. So far, the names of those who died have not been released.

“My heart is with the loved ones of all those we have tragically lost, all of those affected, and with our heroic FDNY firefighters,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The whole of New York State stands in solidarity with New York City.”

Tysenn Jacobs returned home on Monday, hoping to get her medication back.

“I got down on my knees and started to pray to God: ‘God, please help us’. It was too much, “she said.” I have lived in this building for over 30 years. I’ve never seen anything like it. “

Meanwhile, the neighbors rush to help.

“My kids and I agreed to donate jackets, baby clothes, cereal, whatever we had at home that we could spare, I’m giving it away now,” said Johnanna Bellevue, a resident of the area. “We live here. We are a community, so one hand washes the other.”

The building was emptied of its residents last night, but OEM said residents should be able to return to many apartments in the coming days. Other apartments will be uninhabitable for some time and alternative housing for the displaced is being developed.

READ ALSO | How to help families affected by the Bronx fire

Many of the victims are Muslim immigrants from the West African nation of The Gambia, and Adams urged everyone to seek help and assured that their information will not be passed on to federal immigration authorities.

“We just want, right now, to give families the support they deserve,” he said. “And let the marshals do their job to determine what happened here.”

He congratulated the firefighters who intervened on the scene, calling them heroes.

“A lot of them, their oxygen tanks were empty,” he said. “But instead of turning around and getting out of the building, they pushed through the smoke.”

It was New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades.

RELATED | New York’s four deadliest fires since 1990 have all been in the Bronx

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires per year, while the National Fire Protection Association says that heaters are most often responsible for home heating equipment fires, representing more than two out of five fires. , as well as the vast majority of deaths (81%) and injuries (80%) in residential fires caused by heating appliances.

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