BRONX TEARS: Tragic fire kills 17, community unites; blame, lawsuits begin

“This is a global tragedy, because the Bronx in New York City is representative of the ethnicities and cultures across the globe,” Mayor Eric Adams said standing with electeds the day after the deadly Bronx blaze that killed 17 people.

On that frigid Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, up to 200 New York City Fire Department members battled to knock down the fire and rescue residents. The fast-spreading fire, bone-chilling icy weather, and heavy billowing-smoke combined to lead to New York’s deadliest fire in 30 decades.

The fire at 333 East 181st Street—also known as Twin Parks North West—raises bigger issues. Reportedly a faulty space heater in a third-floor apartment ignited a fire, the FDNY reported, which sent choking smoke through all floors of the 19-story, 120 unit building. The NYPD initially stated, “Upon extinguishment of the fire by FDNY personnel, multiple injuries and fatalities were reported and observed. The fire marshal determined the cause of the fire and the medical examiner will determine the respective causes of death. The investigation remains ongoing.”

Not since the 1990 Bronx Happy Land fire has the city seen such a massive loss of life in a single fire.

The Bronx community held an organic “Bronx Strong” masterclass in instantaneous community support. From hosting fundraisers bringing in almost a million dollars, to preparing culturally sensitive meals for the largely Gambian and Muslim residents, to filling rooms of nearby Monroe College with donated blankets and coats and other resources.

While some reporting leans not-so-subtly to apportioning blame on the residents in the apartment where the fire started for not closing the door as they fled, another question being raised widely is why did the third floor, Unit 3N, self-closing door fail? Another big question is why was the heating system apparently so inadequate that tenants felt the need to use space-heaters to warm their homes?

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