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Believing in Better for the Bronx

By Sania Daniyal

A malfunctioning space heater ignited a fire on January 9, filling a high-rise Bronx apartment building with heavy smoke. In the deadliest fire in New York City in three decades, at least 19 people were killed, including nine children. As smoke rose from a lower-floor apartment where the fire started, some trapped residents broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under doors. On every floor, firefighters discovered victims, many of whom were in cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Due to the intensity of the smoke, some were unable to leave the building. Survivors described fleeing in terror down darkened hallways and stairs, gasping for air with faces covered in soot. Numerous people were injured, with many of them being taken to the hospital in critical condition. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the majority of the victims had severe smoke inhalation.

“This event was extremely devastating. When I saw that many of the victims were so young, including one of them being 2 years old, it completely shattered my heart. As far as I know, there were issues with the doors and smoke alarms. I hope in the future these issues are fixed in NYC apartments so that tragedies like this are prevented,” sophomore Manal Rashid said.

“I remember feeling such deep sadness and shock when I first learned of the Bronx apartment fire. I have family and friends, especially many younger cousins, who live in similarly located residential complexes and felt terrified that a similar thing could potentially happen to them,” sophomore Guranaad Kaur said.

Source by Hannah Kim

Students are shocked by the dangers that people faced in their own homes.

Apartment doors in New York City are usually required to be spring-loaded and slam shut automatically, but it was unclear whether this building was protected by those requirements. Many survivors were taken to a nearby school for temporary shelter. Most of the buildings in the Bronx have no sprinkler systems, so the housing in the Bronx is much more vulnerable to devastating fires than most of the housing systems in New York City.

According to court filings, tenants and relatives of the fire victims filed a class-action lawsuit demanding $2 billion in damages from the building's current and past owners. A separate class-action complaint has been filed against the city and different businesses, demanding $1 billion dollars in damages for claimed carelessness in enforcing building standards. Last year, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which supervises housing development infractions in the city, received multiple heat-related complaints and complaints about a defective self-closing door. There were many factors involved in this catastrophe, and many are unsure who to blame for the cause of this fire.

Students from New Hyde Park Memorial High School share who they think is at fault.

“I heard the fire was caused by a faulty space heater, and while I do believe some fault should be put on the company, if the building had better heating systems, something that is vital for a city that faces such harsh winters, then it could've been prevented. I think the city should see this as a warning for what other tragedies could happen if there isn't more focus put on taking care of everyone in the city,” senior Daniella Canning said.

“I don't think anyone in particular is to blame, but rather the building's general neglect of tenants safety is definitely a contributor. Lots of people said that they ignored the fire alarm because they were so used to it going off at random times, which is totally unsafe and led to many people getting injured or worse. The casualties could have been prevented had there been better laws and regulations on fire safety prevention, such as having fire alarms routinely inspected by the state and mandated drills to teach tenants what to do in this tragic event,” sophomore Nicole Donnelly said.

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