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Dublin: 3°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

Boy (3) started New York fire which killed 12 by playing with apartment cooker

It was the deadliest fire in the city since 1990.

Firefighters work at the site of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York.
Firefighters work at the site of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

A THREE-YEAR-old boy playing with burners on a stove ignited the fast-moving fire that tore through a New York apartment building, killing 12 people, including four children, the city’s fire department chief said today.

“We found that this fire started in a kitchen on the first floor. It started from a young boy, three and a half years old, playing with the burners on the stove,” Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters.

“The fire got started, the mother was not aware of it, she was alerted by the young man screaming,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “It seems like a horrible tragic accident.”

The flames spread quickly through the kitchen, then roared through a door the boy’s mother had left open as she fled her first floor apartment with her two children.

A stairwell acted like a chimney, carrying the flames through the entire building within minutes and blocking the main escape route.

Twelve people died, including girls ages one, two and seven and a boy whose age was not given.

“We were told the boy had a history of playing with the burners and turning them on, and before the mother knew it, this fire had gotten a good hold of the kitchen,” Nigro said.

Many residents of the building were able to flee via fire escapes. At least 20 people were clambering down the icy, metal escapes when firefighters arrived, Nigro said.

It was the deadliest fire in the city since 87 people were killed at a social club fire in the same Bronx neighborhood in 1990.

Kenneth Kodua, 37, said he left his apartment to get food, leaving his roommate behind, and came back to find people fleeing in a panic.

Hours later, he was still trying to find out whether his roommate had escaped.
“I tried calling her. I tried calling. No answer,” he said, still clutching his bag of uneaten food. His phone was dead.

Many questions remained in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, including how the fire spread so quickly in a brick building built after catastrophic fires at the turn of the 20th century ushered in an era of tougher enforcement of fire codes.

The building had more than 20 units. It was not new enough that it was required to have modern-day fireproofing, like sprinkler systems and interior steel construction.
Witnesses described seeing burned bodies being carried away on stretchers and young girls who had escaped standing barefoot outside with no coats.

© – AFP 2017

With reporting by the Associated Press

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