Drone shot of the high rise building in the Bronx which caught fire on January 9th. Photo by the New York Fire Department.
12 Jan 2022

Smoke inhalation killed 19 people when door was left open in Bronx high rise fire


Last Sunday, New City experienced its worst high rise fire in 30 years.  At least 19 people are dead and many seriously injured in the Bronx district of New York, local authorities say. At least nine of the dead are children.

The incident is described by the mayor as one of the worst fires in the city in over 30 years. Smoke inhalation is said to have been the cause of death / injury for most of the victims. 

The majority of the victims did not die from exposure to the fire itself, but from not being able to escape the smoke, which lead to lung and / or heart failure. The building is said to have lacked the exterior fire escape stair cases which are otherwise often common in New York apartment buildings.   


Open door killed the majority on the upper floors

The door to the apartment where the fire started was found open, which is thought to have been the reason why so much toxic smoke reached the upper floors of the building.

"The door to the fire apartment was left open. Be #FDNYSmart Close the door as you make your exit. See more tips at http://fdnysmart.org", tweeted the New York Fire Department on their Twitter page, where they also posted a video with images from inside the apartment building after the fire had been put out.

The  fire broke out Sunday in a 19-story building at 333 East 181 Street in the West Bronx, New York. The number of injured was quickly counted up to over 60, of which 32 were to hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to the TV channel NBC. 

Up to 200 firefighters allegedly responded to the alarm. Firefighters who entered the high-rise building reportedly found people in cardiac and respiratory arrest on almost every floor.


Started in a ground floor apartment
The fire started in a ground floor apartment on the second and third floors. The fire then spread further through an open door and smoke billowed iup through the high-rise building, as stated by fire chief Dan Nigro to NBC news.

Investigators say the fire was triggered by a space heater that overheated  in the apartment, according to AP.


New York´s deadliest fire since 1990

Both fire commisioner Dan Nigro and Mayor Eric Adams have drawn parallels to the Happy Land fire in 1990, in which 87 people died.

The fire was New York City's deadliest since 1990, when 87 people died after an arson at the Happy Land social club, also in the Bronx. Another Bronx apartment-building fire in 2017 killed 13 people and a 2007 fire — also started by a space heater — killed nine in the Bronx, which traditionally is considered a poor neighbourhood in the greater New York area.

Sunday's fire occurred just days after 12 people, including eight children, were killed in a house fire in Philadelphia.

Sunday's fire is the deadliest fire in all of the U.S. involving a residential building since 2017, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.


Photo Credit: (Abone) Drone shot of the high rise building in the Bronx which caught fire on January 9th. Photo by the New York Fire Department.