On Thursday evening, a five-alarm fire tore through an apartment building in the Bronx, killing 12 people, including at least four children, according to CNN. The deadly blaze began on the first-floor of the five-story walk-up, and quickly spread through the building's open stairwell. Fire officials did not know at first the cause of the inferno, but told reporters Friday the deadly New York City fire was started by a 3-year-old boy playing with a stove.
Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), said Friday that the toddler had been playing with the stove's burners when the fire broke out, CNN reported. The boy's mother was tending to his 2-year-old sibling in another room when she heard screams from her son, who reportedly has a history of tinkering with the stove. She had grabbed her children and ran out of her first-floor apartment, leaving the door opened, which allowed the flames to escape, according to CNN.
The stairwell in the brick walk-up "acted like a chimney," Nigro said, causing the fire to spread rapidly upstairs, according to Pix11. The flames choked the stairwell, which made it impossible for many of the residents to flee their apartments. They ended up dying in the blaze, Pix11 reported.
Nigro reminded New Yorkers that it's important to close the door behind them in case of a fire, according to Pix11. He also said that children shouldn't be left unattended, which, while well-meaning, is not always possible when you are the parent of multiple children.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the catastrophic fire "an unspeakable tragedy," according to NBC News. De Blasio told the news station,
In the middle of the holiday season, a time when families are together, tonight here in the Bronx there are families that have been torn apart. Based on the information we have now, this will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years.
The worst blaze in the Bronx's modern history happened in March 1990, when a local man deliberately torched Happy Land, a popular dance club in East Tremont, according to The New York Daily News. The tragic fire claimed the lives of 87 people, most of whom died from smoke inhalation.
Questions still linger Friday afternoon in the aftermath of the five-alarm fire Thursday evening, including how the inferno was able to spread so rapidly in the brick five-story walk-up, according to NBC News. Fire officials were also not sure if all 29 apartments had working smoke detectors, NBC News reported.
City records show that the building has six open violations, according to The New York Times. That includes one complaint regarding a broken smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in one of the apartments on the first floor, where the fire began.
On Thursday, after the deadly blaze, the FDNY filed a request for a structural stability inspection on the building, CNN reported. This type of safety inspection would determine if a building or home were "designed and built to accept the anticipated loads to be placed upon them," and are "continuing to perform their intended function," according to Criterium Engineers.
As a parent, you could never truly prepare for the worst case scenario. You can run through drills. You can have in-case-of-emergency rules. You can even have a whiteboard of escape plans hanging all year-round. But sometimes, in the midst of danger, you may not remember what to do. You may not have time to react, or may be too scared to.
What happened Thursday is in no way any parent's fault. You could follow all the safety tips in the world. But when you're in a panicked situation, there's always the chance that you, too, could make the wrong move.