- Ninety fire inspectors out of NYC’s 450 were reassigned from their usual duties to assist the city as it grappled with a staggering rise in COVID infections
- ‘That building was scheduled to be inspected, but because they were sent to a task force, that building was not inspected,’ Oren Barzilay said
- Barzilay, the president of Local 2507 – an union representing EMTs and FDNY inspectors – revealed the concerning report Wednesday
- Councilwoman Joann Ariola backed Barzilay’s remarks, calling former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policy ‘unconscionable,’ and pleading to request an investigation
- Investigators said the January 9 fire was started by one of several space heaters in a third-floor unit after it was left running uninterrupted for days
- Smoke then spread throughout the complex after the apartment’s entry door failed to automatically close
- FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro claimed a door in the stairwell – which is meant to be used as an emergency exit – also malfunctioned
- The death toll, originally reported as 19, was later revised downward to 17 – including eight children. More than 60 other residents were injured in the blaze
A Bronx apartment complex where 17 were killed during a blaze in January was due for an inspection that never took place because fire officials were diverted to a COVID task force to ensure restaurants followed pandemic guidelines.
Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507 – an union representing EMTs and FDNY inspectors – made the concerning claims Wednesday at a hearing before the Fire and Emergency Management Committee.
The Twin Park North West complex was scheduled for an examination of its standpipe system a year before the fire on January 9.
Ninety fire inspectors out of New York City’s 450 were reassigned from their usual duties to assist the city as it grappled with a staggering spike in COVID infections and deaths.
‘That building was scheduled to be inspected, but because they were sent to a task force, that building was not inspected,’ Barzilay told the City Council.
An FDNY spokesperson confirmed to DailyMail.com that some inspectors had indeed been diverted to COVID-related tasks, but said the building did not have operational issues at the time of the fire that would have fallen under the department’s responsibility.
An inspection of the apartment complex was conducted in mid-January and the standpipe system was found to be working properly.
Barzilay said fire inspectors would have likely flagged the malfunctioning self-closing doors that allowed the fire to spread throughout the building, causing eight children and nine adults to die of smoke inhalation.
‘I’m blaming the previous administration for not thinking it through,’ Barzilay told the New York Daily News.
FDNY rebutted the claim and told DailyMail.com that building management was in charge of ensuring the stairwell doors were functioning.
Councilwoman Joann Ariola backed Barzilay’s remarks, calling former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policy ‘unconscionable,’ and pledging to request an investigation by the Department of Investigation and the City Council’s oversight committee.
At least 200 firefighters responded to the fire, some arriving within minutes of the initial call for help. As they entered the building, the first responders were met with flames in the hallway.
The death toll, originally reported as 19, was later revised downward to 17. More than 60 residents were also injured in the blaze.
Investigators said the fire was started by one of several space heaters in a third-floor unit after it was left running uninterrupted for days.
Smoke then spread throughout the complex after the apartment’s entry door failed to automatically close.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro claimed a door in the stairwell – which is meant to be used as an emergency exit – also malfunctioned, allowing the smoke to spread through the building.
‘The fire was contained to the hallway just outside this two-story apartment, but the smoke travelled throughout the building and the smoke is what caused the deaths and the serious injuries,’ Nigro said during a press conference back in January.
The fire originated in Unit 3N, where Mamadou Wague lived with his wife and children.
Wague said he was woken by his children screaming ‘fire’ and then found his eight-year-old daughter, Nafisha, screaming and trapped on a burning mattress in her bedroom.
‘I just grab her and run,’ the West African immigrant told The New York Times after the blaze. ‘I didn’t think about anything except getting her out.’
Wague, 47, pulled his daughter from the burning bed, suffering burns to his lips and nose, and escaped the unit with his family. Nafisha sustained burns but survived.
Fire Marshals ruled the fire ‘accidental,’ noting that it was caused by a malfunctioning space heater and that a ‘smoke alarm was present and operational.’
Officials believe the fire spread so rapidly because Wague left his apartment door open as he fled for his life with his kids.
Large, new apartment buildings in the city are required to have sprinkler systems and interior doors that swing shut automatically to contain smoke and deprive fires of oxygen, but those rules don’t apply to older buildings.
The five-alarm blaze was New York City’s deadliest in three decades.
Although the flames only damaged a small portion of the building, smoke escaped through the Wague family’s open door and flooded the stairwells – the only method of escape as the building was too tall for fire escapes – with ash.
Some people could not escape because of the volume of smoke, while others became incapacitated as they tried to flee. Several residents said the fire alarms in the building are always going off so they ignored them.
There have not been any major building violations or complaints listed against the building, according to city building records, but the structure was reportedly not up to code.