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Bronx Apartment Fire Began On First Floor And Spread Quickly


A fire tore through an apartment building in the Bronx last night.


BILL DE BLASIO: This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter century.

KING: That is New York's mayor, Bill de Blasio, talking to reporters. He said 12 people have been killed, and four are in critical condition. Last night, more than 150 firefighters worked to put out the fire, which took hours to contain because of windy conditions. Here's fire commissioner Daniel A. Nigro.


DANIEL NIGRO: Fire started on the first floor, quickly spread upstairs into this building, five-story building with 25 apartments.

KING: Mayor de Blasio has now told NPR member station WNYC that the fire may have been caused by a child playing with a stove. Earlier this morning, we spoke with Jessica Gould of member station WNYC. She was outside the apartment building in the Bronx.

What are you seeing?

JESSICA GOULD, BYLINE: Well, right now, there's a swarm of fire trucks here. And I'm looking at the building, which is, you know, a typical New York City building with the fire escapes on the outside but the windows are blown out. And the street is still slick from the water that was used to put out the fire that got frozen so quickly because of the cold temperatures.

KING: We have New York's mayor saying this is the worst fire in the city in years. We have the fire commissioner saying it moved very fast. Do we have any idea what started it?

GOULD: So the cause is still under investigation, and we're looking for more details about that. But from what I've talked - from what I've heard from neighbors, it was a stunning fire, that just the ground was shaking from the amount of fire trucks that came to help the victims inside who ranged from as young as 1-year-old to over 50.

KING: Jessica, tell us about this neighborhood in the Bronx, Belmont. What kind of community is this?

GOULD: So it's actually a community that's at the intersection of a couple of major tourist attractions. The Bronx Zoo is just a block away. And then we're also close to Arthur Avenue, which is one of the two main Little Italys in New York. Some people call it the real Little Italy with a lot of restaurants and delis and shops. And it's historically been an Italian immigrant neighborhood, but, of course, in recent years has become more diverse with immigrants from all over, including a growing Latino population.

KING: Jessica, early reports suggest that this building had some fire-code violations. What do you know about that, and how common of a problem is this in New York City?

GOULD: Yeah. So we haven't been able to confirm yet whether there were code violations here or not. The fire - we talked to the fire department and they weren't able to confirm that yet. But the issue of code violations and building violations generally is a huge problem here in New York, especially in areas that are gentrifying. There's often a concern that landlords are letting their building go into disrepair in order to push out tenants and flip them for higher rents. We don't know if that's the case here, but the city has really been trying to crack down on landlords who let that happen.

KING: Jessica Gould of member station WNYC. Jessica, thank you so much.

GOULD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jessica Gould