The latest residential fire in the Bronx, a blaze in Throggs Neck, has left yet another community in mourning.
On Sunday, January 14, shortly after noon, residents of the Throggs Neck Houses on 2821 Dewey Avenue, noticed thick smoke billowing out of the windows of an apartment on the fourth floor.
When the FDNY arrived to apartment #4B, they found two unconscious and unresponsive occupants.
Both 13-year-old Yolanda Rojas and her father 62-year-old Nelson Rojas were transported by the EMS to Jacobi Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
Fire marshals determined a hot plate that sat too close to some bedding ignited the blaze.
Some residents suspected the hot plate was being used as a heater because the apartment lacked adequate heat, an ongoing problem in NYCHA housing during the winter months.
But a tenant leader at the complex countered that claim.
“There is no record of there being no heat,” said Monique Johnson, the president of the Throggs Neck Houses Resident Council.
“A lot of people are saying there was no heat but that’s not true,” Johnson continued.
Community leaders, however, are still looking for answers to why the Rojas’ needed a hot plate in the first place.
“I don’t recall there being a fire recently in Throggs Neck Houses, but in any event this was a tragic situation and NYCHA does have a lot of explaining to do,” said Matthew Cruz, the district manager of Community Board 10.
Some believe the family may have secured the hot plate when the complex suffered through gas outages this past summer.
While more than one third of home fires happen December through February, most of these fires are one hundred percent preventable, according to the FDNY website.
“If an appliance develops a different smell, makes unusual sounds or the cord feels warm, pull the plug and discontinue use,” said FDNY in a Twitter post.
The American Red Cross, which helps victims of local disasters like fires, said this has been one of their busiest seasons yet.
Since January 1, the Red Cross has responded to 25 incidents in the Bronx, most of them being home fires, and helped nearly 600 people in the borough with emergency housing or funds.
Boroughwide, clothing and supply drives continue.
The FDNY, community boards, churches and other community organizations, the Red Cross, and local elected officials are trying to help Bronxites learn more about how to prevent fires and how to be prepared in case of an emergency, since the deadly fire on Prospect Avenue in December.
In fact, the day of the Throggs Neck Houses fire, the Red Cross and the office of the Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. held a workshop in Soundview and installed 400 free smoke alarms.
“It is imperative that we reach out to our neighbors and that we check on each other,” said Johnson.
The Throggs Neck Residence Council is planning a memorial for the Rojas family.
CB 10 set up a 6 p.m. fire safety presentation for the Throggs Neck Houses on Friday, January 19, at 550 Balcom Avenue.