New York City officials say they are expecting multiple fatalities at the site of a five alarm fire in the Bronx Sunday, where at least 63 people were injured.
Roughly 200 firefighters responded to the blaze at a 19-story apartment building on East 181 Street, according to the New York City Fire Department. Authorities were called to the scene at about 11 a.m. and managed to contain the flames at around 1 p.m., NBC New York reported.
FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro said he anticipates “numerous fatalities” but no deaths have yet been reported.
In response to a question about rumors residents may have jumped out of windows, Nigro said it was possible some “might have fallen from the building” trying to get onto ladders placed by firefighters. He had not heard reports of anyone jumping prior to the department’s arrival.
“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at fire which was over 30 years ago, also here in the Bronx,” Nigro said.
The commissioner appeared to refer to the 1990 Happy Land social club fire, which killed 87 people. A man angry at having been spurned by his former girlfriend, who worked at the coat check-in, set the club on fire following a heated argument.
It’s unclear what sparked the Sunday blaze, which will be investigated by the fire marshal’s office.
At least 63 people were injured with some level of smoke inhalation. The department reported 32 of the injured were in life threatening condition, while another nine people were described as being in “serious” condition.
Newly-inducted Mayor Eric Adams was at the scene of the fire Sunday afternoon to be briefed by officials. He said the impact of the fire will bring “pain and despair” to the city of New York.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed here in modern times in the city of New York,” Adams said during a briefing.
Some residents told NBC New York they were brought out of the building by firefighters on ladders, recalling the terrifying experience. Karen Dejesus, who said she lives on the third floor, was making breakfast when she began to see smoke and heard cries for help.
“We just hovered in the back room … and next thing we know we see flames coming out the back windows and stuff,” she recalled. “We smelling the smoke and the next thing we know, the whole upstairs and my apartment is black and the fire department breaking in the door to come get us. We had to climb out the window and everything.”
Dejesus called the experience “so scary” but said she and her family, including a 3-year-old child, were safely evacuated.
The Bronx fire comes just days after a rowhouse in Philadelphia went up in flames, killing 12 people, eight of whom were children. Officials said none of the four battery-operated smoke detectors were working at the time.