In less than a week, two catastrophic fires ripped through Tremont and Stratton Park.
On Thursday, December 28, a little before 7 p.m. police and firefighters responded to a 911 call about a fire in an apartment building at 2363 Prospect Avenue.
Though emergency crews arrived about three minutes after receiving the call, the blaze claimed the lives of 12 people including four children, a teenager and a recently enlisted Army recruit.
“We have people who have lost their lives, lost their homes, lost everything,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro of the multiple-alarm fire.
“Our members bravely entered the building and did everything they could and did save a number of residents, this loss is unprecedented.”
The accident has been called the deadliest fire in New York City since the Happy Lands fire in 1990.
After investigation, fire marshals discovered the blaze was caused by a 3-year-old boy playing with the burners on the stove of a first floor apartment.
The toddler, who had a history of playing with the stove, alerted his mother to the fire he started with a scream and when she realized when happened she left her apartment with the 3-year-old and her other 2-year-old child and left the door open, according to Commissioner Nigro.
The fire spread quickly through the doorway and up the staircase, trapping some tenants in thick smoke and fire while others were able to reach the fire escape in nothing more but the clothes on their backs, according to the commissioner.
“This is an awful tragedy that has cost 12 people their lives, including a toddler, and has left multiple families homeless, during the coldest part of the year,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “In times like this, we must come together and help one another as best as we can, as a community.”
“Considering the cold weather conditions and the devastation the fire left behind, every little bit of help matters,” Diaz Jr. continued. “Please keep the victims and their families in your prayers.”
Over the New Year’s Eve weekend, the mayor’s office, in partnership with the NYPD, FDNY, OEM, the borough president’s office, and other local agencies and elected officials held a coat and clothing drive for the victims of this fire.
“This neighborhood has a history of seeing devastating fires,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres, who also held a household item drive to collect canned food and hygiene products that same weekend for victims.
“Please know the community supports you [the residents and their families] whole heartedly and we are here for you in whatever way we can,” Torres continued. “This is a trauma and tragedy for the Bronx family.”
Five days after the fire on Prospect Avenue, on Tuesday, January 2, a 7-alarm fire broke out in a building at 1547 Commonwealth Avenue, off East Tremont Avenue around 5:30 a.m.
While no deaths were reported, 23 people including 9 children and a firefighter were injured but are expected to be okay, according to Commissioner Nigro.
While the investigation on the cause of this fire is ongoing, residents speculate the fire started on the first floor, which is occupied by a furniture store.
The American Red Cross assisted 14 families from the fire on Prospect Avenue, with four receiving emergency housing, and 12 families from the fire on Commonwealth Avenue, with eight families receiving emergency housing, according to Michael de Vulpillieres, the communications officer of the American Red Cross of Greater NY.
Since Christmas Eve, the Red Cross has helped 193 people in 19 separate incidents in the Bronx, according to de Vulpillieres.
Last year around the same time, the Red Cross assisted 45 people in 12 incidents in the Bronx.