Automatic door closing failures are targeted as the ‘trigger’ for the Bronx building fire tragedy

Following the fatal fire in the Bronx on Sunday, which left at least 17 dead, 8 of them children, and 66 injured, some who are in a delicate situation, the City authorities announced a “comprehensive investigation” to determine if there are flaws in the fire prevention systems, including automatic door closers, may have been the triggers for the greatest tragedy of this kind in 30 years in the Big Apple.

Mayor Eric Adams suggested this Monday, as an initial hypothesis, that a defective door that did not close due to the absence of safety springs, could have been the main factor that helped spread the smoke to much of the building.

“We have a law here in the City that requires the doors to certain buildings to close automatically. We are following up through investigation with the fire marshals, who will be extremely thorough. We promise a serious and profound report of what caused this tragedy ”, announced the municipal president.

The fire originated in a second and third floor duplex apartment in the 19-story Twin Parks North West building at 333 East 181st Street in the Tremont neighborhood, due to problems with an electric heater. From that apartment a dense cloud of smoke spread for almost the entire residential tower.

The people who died were found in stairwell areas on various floors of the building. The investigations will try to define exactly why thick smoke was able to travel to all floors, leaving the victims unconscious.

Although there are already some preliminary conclusions.

A door without proper maintenance

The Commissioner of the Fire Department (FDNY), Daniel Nigro, confirmed this Monday that the incident was totally accidental and the fire alarm systems worked properly, but the door of the apartment where the fire originated was left open and that fueled the expansion of combustion.

“That door to the apartment was not working properly. Instead of automatically closing as stipulated by City code and fire safety protocol, it remained ajar after the unit’s tenants escaped, which caused the smoke to spread”, Highlighted the official.

The flames damaged only a small part of the building, but the smoke spread down stairs and hallways, trapping many people in their apartments and suffocating others as they fled.

Most of the deaths were due to smoke inhalation. Many of those victims were found in the hallways.

“We take them out with cardiac and respiratory arrests “Nigro reported.

Amid the investigations, Mayor Adams raised reviving an education initiative that extends to schools and senior centers, to provide the community with minimal security tools, in extreme circumstances involving fires.

It was the smoke that took the lives. Not the fire itself. We learned a great lesson in this. On many occasions in the midst of an emergency, people flee in despair and forget to close the doors. That is why we are going to duplicate this training in the city. We want all of us to understand this, especially the new generations, ”said Adams.

A federally subsidized building

Regarding this tragedy, the leaders of the New York City Firefighters Association (UFA) detailed how open doors, at the time of a fire like the one registered this Sunday, can turn into a hellish scene to any building.

“When the apartment door or emergency access is left open, it exposes the entire building to toxic air. These areas become a large fireplace. In a matter of minutes, those inside are deprived of breathable air, ”said Andrew Ansbro, president of the UFA.

In addition, the union leader added that the building was “well known in that area, for having difficult fires” and pointed out that its protection rules regarding sprinklers, self-monitoring and closing doors they may have been different than those required by the City, because it is a federal grant-based building.

In this regard, a spokesperson for ‘Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC ‘, one of the companies that owns the building built in 1972, shared in a statement to local media that its fire alarm system “It worked as designed.”

The spokesperson added that the corporation is “working with the relevant housing agencies to expedite the issuance of tenant vouchers to affected residents. This will allow households to find suitable homes that match with the level of rental assistance they have received at Twin Park. “

Versions of The New York Post say that representatives of the 120-apartment building where the fire occurred were cited for more than two dozen violations and complaints such as leaks, elevator failures and insect infestation. But not because of failures in the emergency systems.

The other question that arises in the face of this tragedy is whether there were pending complaints about the heating systems in the building, because precisely the origin of the fire came from a tenant using electric heaters.

The digital magazine Politician ensures that in the records of the Department of Preservation and Housing Development of the City accumulates four complaints about the lack of heating, from February to December 2021.

Mayor Eric Adams promises a detailed investigation into the causes of the tragedy. (Photo: Courtesy M. Appleton- NYC Mayoral Office)

Who and how many are the victims?

City authorities had initially reported this Sunday that 19 people had died in the catastrophe, but that number was changed to 17: nine adults and eight children.

The FDNY commissioner cautioned that the initial counting error was due to the victims being taken to seven different hospitals, leading to a “Double counting”.

“Many of the injured victims are still fighting for their lives. These numbers could sadly change ”, underlined in the last update.

Most of those affected were people with roots in the African nation of GambiaAccording to the ambassador of that country in New York, Dawda Fadera.

“Our country is in mourning. We are all related. Everyone knows everyone. So our country is currently in a state of shock, “he said.

Authorities have not yet identified all of the victims, but the City urges the community to share information or seek help. regardless of your immigration status.

“This neighborhood is home to thousands of immigrants. Let’s overcome fear. No one who comes to seek help will be reported to ICE, “said the Mayor.

The newspaper could not confirm the version of that some Dominicans are in the group of victimsSince dozens of families from this community live in the residential complex hit by the flames.

NYC helps its victims:

  • New Yorkers interested in contributing to the relief fund created by the Mayor’s Office can donate online:, or by mailing a check made out to “The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City” indicating that the donations are for the Bronx Fire Relief Fund in the memo field or in a note attached to the check.
  • First responders from the Fire Department (FDNY), the New York City Emergency Management Center (NYCEM) and the American Red Cross provide critical assistance during and immediately after the fire.
  • NYCEM established a service center in Monroe College in The Bronx open daily from 12 to 8 p.m. where those affected can receive assistance with City services, including housing, COVID-19 testing, food, funeral assistance and mental health support.
  • The Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit (CAU) has coordinated an interfaith outreach response to connect clergy with affected families.
  • NYCEM and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) ensure that interpreters are present to help people access services.
  • The Red Cross is asking those affected to communicate to obtain temporary housing assistance at 1-877-733-2767.
  • If you are trying to locate loved ones who live in the building, the City urges you to call 311 for that and more information.
  • Anyone needing help finding victim resources should send a text message 181STFIRE to number 692692.

Fire in the Big Apple

  • 87 people died in the deadliest fire in New York City in 1990, in an incident at the ‘Happy Land’ social club, also in the Bronx
  • 13 people also died in Salsa County in 2017 in a flaming incident in an apartment building that killed 13 people, also started by a space heater, which killed nine children and one adult.
  • 16% increased fires in the Big Apple in 2021 compared to 2020.
  • 73 deaths from fire accidents compared to 63 in 2020, according to FDNY data.