19 people killed in fire in New York: “There was no survival, no chance to escape”


New York – Shock, horror and grief in New York after the deadliest fire inferno in 30 years.

A fire triggered by a fan heater in a third-floor apartment of a residential building in the Bronx spread quickly. Within minutes, several floors of the 19-story apartment building in the Fordham Heights district were in flames, with toxic smoke filling the corridors and stairwells.

The actual escape routes became a death trap …

The number of victims is unbearable: At least 19 deaths are to be mourned! Particularly tragic: nine of them are children. 200 firefighters risked their own lives with sometimes daring rescue operations to save the people trapped in the flame and smoke hell on this fateful Sunday morning. Video footage shows firefighters clinging to a ladder while glaring flames shoot out of a broken window.



BILD reporters Herbert Bauernebel and Katie Pflegehar spoke to those affected by the inferno in New York Photo: Herbert Bauernebel

When BILD arrives at the scene of the accident, the traces of the fire disaster are clearly visible: a good half of the windows are broken, pitch-black traces of soot can be seen on the facade. Rescue workers in white overalls are busy securing evidence on the ground floor. Residents stand together on street corners. The shock is written on their faces. A first refuge was set up in an adjoining school for the now homeless residents of the unfortunate building.

“Now I understand why people jumped out of the Word Trade Center on September 11th,” says Tony Johnson. The army veteran first noticed a strange burning smell in his apartment on the twelfth floor: “Outside the corridor was completely black, acrid smoke, you couldn’t breathe!” He knew straight away: “There was no survival, so practically no chance of escape! “Johnson therefore holed up in his apartment and looked for his old gas mask from the army.


Exhausted firefighters after hours of fire fighting in the skyscraper

Exhausted firefighters after hours of fire fighting in the skyscraperPhoto: Herbert Bauernebel

There were many people in the building who barely speak English, he said, and who did not know what to do in the event of a fire. He describes scenes of chaos. Also macabre: the fire alarm would have gone off so often for no reason in the apartment building that this time many had not taken it seriously enough.

During the evacuation, the man experienced true horror scenes: “A neighbor was lying on the floor in the corridor, half naked, I think she was already dead, fire fighters were standing next to her”. He saw dead pets, including numerous dogs, in the hallways and in front of the main entrance. The survivor also tells about miracles: Several teenagers, for example, managed to escape from the particularly affected third floor at the last moment when they roped down with the sheets tied – and thus escaped death.

Johnson stands in the cold rain in front of the ruined fire, pulls on his cigarette. “I have to have cancer treatment tomorrow, but I need that after all this …”

The chief of the New York fire department FDNY, Dan Nigro (73), announced that flames and smoke encompassed the entire building erected in 1972. And dead were found on every floor. He also confirmed: The death fire was triggered by a defective portable heater in a bedroom. The owners would have fled and left the doors open, which is why the fire could have spread so quickly.

Mayor Eric Adams (61), who has already had a serious crisis to cope with on the ninth day in office, praised the firefighters: They would have continued to search for people themselves when their oxygen tanks were empty.


Tenant “Fufu” lives on the ninth floor of the “Twin Park North West”.  She was trapped in the building for two hours

Tenant “Fufu” lives on the ninth floor of the “Twin Park North West”. She was trapped in the building for two hoursPhoto: Herbert Bauernebel

A 20-year-old who only wants to reveal her nickname Fufu was on the ninth floor of the “Twin Parks North West” building when the fire broke out: “We were only able to leave the house after two hours because the smoke was too corrosive.”

Her worst experiences: “We heard people pounding on the windows and shouting for help – that was through the heart, that is not something you want to hear …” The fire brigade called to the residents to keep their doors closed and come along Seal wet towels. Fufu shows her soot-blackened hands: “That’s all of the black smoke!”


New York Mayor Eric Adams (61) thanked the rescuers for their tireless efforts

New York Mayor Eric Adams (61) thanked the rescuers for their tireless effortsPhoto: Herbert Bauernebel

Domingo Augustini lives in the house opposite: “There were terrible scenes, first the fire, then the moment when victims were brought out on stretchers, I saw fire fighters who were completely black and could hardly breathe!” He observed residents on the lower floors the open windows that firefighters urged to keep the doors closed. The witness: “They pulled a boy out of an open window and brought him down the ladder”. When he heard the casualty record, he would have been shocked: “Nine dead children? That is simply unbearable! ”

More than 60 people were injured in the inferno, around half of them seriously. An increase in the number of victims is feared.

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