What Caused the Bronx Fire? Faulty Space Heater Sparked Blaze Choking People to Death in Their Rooms

At least 19 people have been reported dead so far including nine children, while over five dozen have been critically injured.

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The Bronx building where at least 19 people died in a massive blaze on Sunday in one of the deadliest fires in the city in more than 30 years was caused by a faulty space heater, authorities confirmed. However, poor maintenance is also being blamed for the deadly fire that saw several including nine children dead and dozens critically injured.

According to authorities, the 19-story, 120-unit building has been hit with multiple complaints and violations since 2014. Thirteen people remained hospitalized in critical condition as of Sunday evening, New York Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference.

Malfunctioning Space Heater

Bronx apartment fire
Bronx apartment fire Twitter

Initial investigation revealed that Sunday's fire was caused by a faulty space heater although there were several complaints of violations against the building since 2014. FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro said that "very heavy" fire and smoke "extended the entire height of the building."

"We are investigating where everyone was found, and how the smoke travelled." Initial investigation has revealed that the fire first broke out in a bedroom, in a portable heater and then spread to other apartments.

"The heat was on in the building. This was being used to supplement the heat."

Nigro said that the smoke alarms were on, and working, in the 1972-built apartment block. "There were functioning smoke alarms throughout the building," he said.

The fire was first reported by a resident who heard the smoke alarm and reported it to the security.

According to Nigro, detailed investigation will reveal how the fire spread across apartments.

At least 19 people have been reported dead so far including nine children. According to initial reports, all the children were below 16 years of age.

Bronx fire
A child being rescued to safety after the deadly blaze Twitter

"I heard a lot of kids yelling, 'Help! Help! Help!'" resident Dilenny Rodriguez, 38, recalled of the screams echoing through her apartment on the ninth floor of the 19-story building at 333 E. 181st St. in Tremont.

Violations Against Building

Police said that the fire was so deadly that it hardly gave time to people to make an exit. "In buildings like this there are no fire escapes, there are interior stairways," Nigro confirmed. "Residents should know where the stairwells are. I think some of them could not escape because of the volume of smoke."

The fire department said over 200 members responded to the scene. Officials said the fire was under control as of 1:27 p.m. ET.

"This is a horrific, epic, painful moment for the city of New York," Adams said Sunday. "The impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of pain and despair in our city. The numbers are horrific."

More than five dozen people are critically injured in the fire and are being treated. Most of the victims had severe smoke inhalation.

Although Sunday's fire was caused by a faulty space heater, the building has been hit with complaints and violations since 2014.

Part of a complex initially known as Twin Parks, the building went up in 1972 as an urban renewal project constructed by the state Urban Development Corporation — the present-day Empire State Development Corporation.

According to the New York Post, there were more than two dozen violations and complaints since against the building since 2013 - despite $25 million in state loans for repairs.

Bronx fire rescue
A critically injured resident being moved out of the building. Twitter

The citations, including for vermin infestation and faulty elevators, came after the 2013 infusion of state cash — and before the building was sold to an investment group two years ago.

The building was most recently the subject of a DOB complaint on March 25 for not having a working elevator, with a similar complaint filed on April 9, 2019.

Another complaint cited scaffolding that did not meet safety standards in 2015. Several residents on Sunday said that fire alarms were always going off but residents ignored them as they believed they were faulty.

Complaints and violations filed with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development include several related to roach and mice infestation in two apartments.

"Infestation consisting of roaches in the entire apartment located at apt. 12M, 12th story," one complaint reported in October said.

Most of the roach and rat complaints revolved around the 12th-floor unit, although another cited mice infestation in a sixth-floor apartment. However, most of the violations were addressed.