Wakefield apartment fire displaces 61, injures four

A residential fire in Wakefield displaced dozens of residents and left four people injured on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
A residential fire in Wakefield displaced dozens of residents and left four people injured on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
Photo courtesy FDNY

A blaze at an apartment building in Wakefield Thursday night had displaced at least 61 people and sent four to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries by Friday morning, according to the FDNY and American Red Cross — and another contributor to the borough’s spike in fires over the last two decades.

In a press briefing after the four-alarm blaze on Thursday, FDNY Chief John Hodgens said one firefighter and one civilian experienced code orange — or “life threatening serious” — injuries from smoke inhalation, and two additional firefighters sustained code green “non-serious” injuries from the fire at 4055 Carpenter Ave. No fatalities have been reported. 

But by Friday afternoon, FDNY Press Secretary Amanda Farinacci Gonzalez confirmed with the Bronx Times that the two life threatening injuries were reduced to non-life threatening. 

 “Their conditions were downgraded,” Farinacci Gonzalez said in an email. “It’s common for that to happen.” 

The FDNY received the call around 5 p.m. Thursday, Hogens said, and arrived on the scene in six minutes. The fire “quickly spread” from where it had started on the top floor of the apartment building to the area between the ceiling and the roof — and then across to an adjoining building. The fire chief said approximately 200 firefighters and EMS personnel were deployed to the scene. 

“Our members did a tremendous job getting hose lines in place quickly and getting to the scene of the fire,” Hodgens said in the press briefing Thursday night. 

Around 104 apartments in the building were “potentially affected” by the fire, the chief said, and American Red Cross and the state Office of Emergency Management officials were on the scene assisting displaced residents. 

Michael de Vulpillieres, communications officer at the Red Cross of Greater New York, said 45 families — accounting for 120 people total — had already registered for Red Cross assistance as of 3:30 p.m. Friday. There were 61 people in 22 households placed in emergency hotel housing as of Friday morning, he said.

Personnel were stationed on site until around midnight Thursday, Vulpillieres said, and that more Red Cross officials had been helping residents remotely and in person on Friday. 

According to Vulpillieres, the Bronx is more familiar than other boroughs with blazes of this caliber. 

“The Bronx had a really busy 2022,” he said. “It saw the largest spike in fires.” 

Red Cross data indicates that from 2002 to 2021 the Bronx saw a 20% increase in fires — the highest jump among all New York City boroughs, Vulpillieres said. 

Firefighters respond to a four-alarm fire in Wakefield on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
Firefighters respond to a four-alarm fire in the Wakefield section on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. Photo courtesy FDNY

Thursday night’s four-alarm blaze in Wakefield comes on the heels of the first anniversary of the city’s deadliest fire in more than three decades — the Twin Parks North West apartment fire that killed 17 people in Fordham Heights on Jan. 9, 2022. 

The Twin Parks blaze was started from a faulty space heater on the third floor and spread quickly because of the building’s defective self-closing doors. Of the 17 people who died, eight of them were children — the youngest just 2 years old.   

Vulpillieres said the Red Cross also responded to the “terrible tragedy” at the Twin Parks building last January, which displaced more than 300 people. 

“We’ve been standing alongside (Twin Parks tenants) and helping them recover,” he said Friday. 

Vulpillieres said similarly to the Red Cross’ response at Twin Parks, the agency is still taking new registrations for anyone in need of aid from the Wakefield fire. The services provided include emergency housing accommodations, financial assistance, case work and physical and mental health support.  

“Our role is to support in the immediate aftermath, and to guide them through recovery,” Vulpillieres said. “Our hearts go out to everybody.” 

New York State Sen. Jamaal Bailey announced on Twitter that his office would be collecting high priority donations for those impacted by the Wakefield fire — including new clothes, bedding, baby items, toiletries, canned foods and bottled water. Drop offs can be made at 959 E. 233rd St., Bronx, NY 10466.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Anyone affected and not registered for Red Cross assistance can call 877-RED-CROSS and dial option 1. 

Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes