Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C. is deeply saddened by the Bronx Fire that killed at least 17 people as of today. News like this is especially devastating when it happens right here in our own city, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Any preventable loss of life is unacceptable, and we call on public officials to fully investigate the causes and put preventative measures in place to make sure tragedies like this don’t happen again. Our leading personal injury and premises liability lawyers investigate cases where lapses in product safety and landlord negligence have unnecessarily put tenants at risk. Contact us now to report a claim and discuss your case for free with an experienced and compassionate attorney.
Deadliest NYC Fire in Decades
New Mayor Eric Adams called the numbers “horrific.” Though originally reported at 19 deaths, the death toll has been revised to 17, including eight children. More than 60 people were hurt in total, with 13 people hospitalized in critical condition – some are intubated and “clinging to life.” Ten children are among those still hospitalized, in various conditions.
The catastrophic event represents the city’s largest loss of life in a fire since 1990, when a deliberately set fire at a Bronx nightclub killed 87 people.
What Caused the Bronx Fire Injuries and Deaths?
The official cause of death and injury in the Bronx fire was “severe smoke inhalation,” according to Fire Department commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. Most fire deaths occur when smoke deprives people of oxygen and suffocates the lungs. Within minutes, oxygen deprivation is enough to disorient a person and cause permanent brain damage. More sustained smoke inhalation causes fluid to collect in the lungs, leading to death.
Victims arriving at the ER for severe smoke inhalation can be treated with an antidote for cyanide poisoning and flooded with oxygen in hopes of reversing hypoxia. Patients with brain damage may require intubation or pressurized hyperbaric chamber oxygen. Children and babies are especially sensitive to hypoxia and often do not make it.
For those who do survive the ordeal, determining the extent of recovery requires testing and time. Even if maximum medical prognosis has not been reached, you can still contact a New York personal injury lawyer to start investigating your claim. This is important, as the statute of limitations starts ticking on the date of the fire and generally expires after three years.
How Did the Bronx Fire Start?
The fire in the 19-story building that housed 120 units at East 181st Street started with a malfunctioning space heater that had been left on for days in a lower-level duplex apartment. The U.S. Product Consumer Safety Commission is investigating whether the space heater had been defective. Portable heaters are not a leading cause of the 1.2 million+ residential fires that occur nationwide, say safety experts, though they were linked to 1,700 fires, 80 deaths, and 160 injuries from 2016 to 2018.
Fire alarms went off, but residents said false alarms were “frequent.” Newer apartment complexes are outfitted with automatic sprinkler systems, but this building built in the 1970s had none. A city lawmaker had proposed requiring automatic fire sprinklers in all residential buildings 40 feet or taller by the end of 2029, but the measure failed to pass.
The door to the apartment failed to swing close after residents fled. Smoke traveled up through the stairwell to the 15th floor, where another self-closing door malfunctioned, allowing smoke to spread throughout the structure and making escape impossible. A family of five died of smoke inhalation on the 19th floor. The city housing department had issued violations for problems with self-closing doors in five apartments and one stairwell from 2014-2021, which had all been resolved. An ongoing investigation will look into whether maintenance issues played a role in causing unnecessary destruction and loss of life.
Congressman Ritchie Torres said that, even though the heat was turned on, there were multiple complaints of inadequate heat and hot water in the building, leading many tenants to resort to multiple space heaters to stay warm. A new task force will explore fire safety standards nationwide. “We owe it to the lives lost to ensure that their death is not in vain,” Torres added.
If You Were Hurt or Lost a Loved One in a Fire, Call Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green in NYC
The aftermath of a deadly fire often leaves many unanswered questions, but we can help. Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C. has served New York for over 50 years, representing victims of burn injuries, wrongful death, and other damages resulting from negligence. We have the resources and skills to get results. Contact a New York City premises liability lawyer for a free consultation to explore your legal rights.