At least 12 people were fatally injured as a fire swept through an apartment building in the Bronx the evening of Dec. 28. According to news reports, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it the “worst fire tragedy in this city in at least a quarter century.” The victims ranged in age from 1 to 63 and died on various floors as smoke and flames ravaged the 29-unit building. Among the fatalities were four children, three of whom were under the age of 10. Seven civilians and seven firefighters were also injured in the fire, including four who were critically injured.
Once the fire started, the flames shot up the open stairwell trapping residents on the higher floors, officials said. As people began to panic and fled into the halls and fire escapes, the open doors and windows sucked the fire upward. Fire officials said the fire spread so quickly that people had very little time to react. Some tried to run down the stairs, which were also ablaze. Twenty others had climbed into fire escapes as temperatures outside were in the teens and firefighters started arriving. The victims died from burn injuries and smoke inhalation, officials said.
Faulty Smoke Detectors Reported
Officials said the building on Prospect Avenue, which was about a century old, had defective carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Fire officials also said the fire started on the first floor, but that it was not clear if it was in the apartment with the faulty detectors. According to the New York City Housing Preservation and Development’s online records, there was at least one still-open violation reported in August 2017 for the building showing there was a defective carbon monoxide detector in a first-floor apartment and one open violation indicating a defective smoke detector in the same apartment.
In addition to reports of one apartment’s faulty smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, the city received four complaints about the building since 2004. This apartment fire in the Bronx is the deadliest since 1990 when 87 people died in a blaze at the Happy Land social club. In 2007, 10 people of whom nine were children, were killed in a Bronx residential fire after a space heater cord overheated.
Smoke Detectors Save Lives
The FDNY reports that in 2015, New York City firefighters responded to 1.7 million calls in which 59 people died. In 2014, 71 people were killed in fires across the city. It is worth noting that in 2015, 80 percent of fire-related fatalities occurred in homes or apartment buildings where there were no smoke detectors, according to FDNY.
The New York City Housing Maintenance Code requires property owners, landlords and/or property managers to provide, install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in each unit. Not only should these life-saving devices be present, but they should also be in good working order. The American Red Cross estimates that having a working smoke alarm in a home reduces the risk of a fire-related accident death by as much as 51 percent. Sprinklers and smoke alarms together reduce the risk of a home fire death by 82 percent.
Responsibility of Property Owners and Managers
Property owners and property managers have a responsibility to ensure that their buildings are maintained to code requirements and that the installed smoke alarms and sprinklers are in good working order. When a fire accident is caused by negligence or a lack of property maintenance, property owners and/or property managers may be held liable for the injuries and loss of life that occurs. Injured victims or families of deceased victims can file a premises liability claim against the liable parties including, but not limited to, the landlord, property owner, property manager, etc.
Injured victims in such cases can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Families that have lost loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation as well.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our firm recovered $985,000 out of a $1,000,000 policy in a fire accident case where injuries etc. were sustained because the homeowner did not have smoke detectors installed in an apartment. One of our clients recovered $2,500,000 due to a faulty space heater.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
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