At least 19 people, including nine children, were killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx neighborhood of New York on Sunday. Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A five-alarm fire broke out in an apartment building in the Fordham Heights neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City on Sunday, killing at least 19 people, including nine children.
More than 200 firefighters with the Fire Department of New York were battling the blaze, which was first reported around 11 a.m. in the 19-floor building, in what city officials described as one of the worst fires in decades.
"This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city of New York and the impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of just pain and despair in our city," Mayor Eric Adams said during a press conference.
"This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed during modern times in the city of New York."
The 19 deaths makes the blaze the third deadliest apartment fire in the United States, according to data by the National Fire Protection Association.
Adams said the fire may have been sparked by a faulty electric space heater, and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro confirmed, stating the blaze began in an apartment spanning the building's second and third floors.
"The fire consumed that apartment that is on two floors and part of the hallway," Nigro said. "The door to that apartment, unfortunately, when the residents left was left open it did not close by itself. The smoke spread throughout the building, thus the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives at hospitals throughout the Bronx."
Nigro said firefighters who responded were met with "very heavy smoke" and "very heavy fire," finding victims on every floor and in stairwells of the building.
"There were certainly people trapped in their apartments all through this building, which is why our members did an unbelievable job of getting through every floor of this building and getting to these folks," Nigro said.
Fire officials said 63 people were deemed to have suffered injuries so far, with at least 32 of them taken to area hospitals. Officials have not released the names of any of the victims.
Videos posted to Citizen App show plumes of smoke billowing from the building while flames shoot out from windows on its lower floors after the blaze broke out on the building's third floor.
Fire officials said the fire has been "knocked down" and is at a "probably will hold" status, meaning it is not likely to grow any larger. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.
In a press conference Sunday evening, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state would establish a victim's compensation fund for those impacted by the fire.
"We are indeed a city in shock. It's impossible to go into that room, where scores of families, who are in such grief, who are in pain, to see in a mother's eyes as I held her, who lost her entire family ... it's hard to fathom what they are going through," she said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also attended the press conference and said lawmakers would do "whatever we can" at the federal level to assist the victims.