Six people, including four children, were killed in an apartment fire that ripped through a Harlem building. According to a report in The New York Times, officials said the fire started on the kitchen stove of a three-bedroom, fifth-floor apartment and quickly engulfed it. None of the six occupants in the apartment survived their injuries, authorities stated.
Injuries and Deaths
Three other victims suffered smoke inhalation injuries as the building was being evacuated. The fire broke out in a portion of the Frederick E. Samuel Houses, a group of 40 buildings operated by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) (The Projects), which has been in the news after more than 1,000 children living in the projects were found to have excess levels of lead in their bodies.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found two adults and four children, aged 3 to 11, unconscious in bedrooms at the back of the apartment. Officials said the apartment had extensive fire damage. This was the city’s deadliest fire since December 2017 when 12 people in a Bronx apartment building died. Firefighters also said they did not hear smoke-detector alarms as they worked their way through the apartment. An investigation into the fire is ongoing.
Officials have stated that the layout of the apartment worked against the victims being able to get out. The kitchen was the room closest to the front door and the fire spread from there in the opposite direction trapping all victims inside. They were not able to get to either the front door or the windows that were on the fire escape. Records from the Department of Buildings show that the building had not been cited for smoke detector violations, but that it did have four open violations for failing to conduct safety inspections of the elevator going back to 2016.
In February 2017, the complex failed an inspection conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees public housing authorities nationwide. HUD routinely inspects subsidized housing developments to make sure that the conditions are clean and safe. Inspectors are supposed to check for faulty smoke detectors and to deduct points for safety and health violations such as peeling paint or mold.
The Importance of Having Working Smoke Alarms
The FDNY states that nearly two-thirds of fatal fires in the city involve smoke alarms that don’t work. Smoke detectors and fire alarms are critical when it comes to protection from fires and smoke inhalation injuries, which experts say, cause more fire-related deaths than burn injuries. Landlords, property owners and managing agents are required under New York City’s Housing Maintenance Code to provide, install and maintain smoke detecting devices in each unit.
According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issued in January 2019, between 2012 and 2016, smoke alarms were present in 74 percent of home fires reported to U.S. fire departments and sounded in more than half of those fire incidents. The report stated that almost three out of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (60 percent) or no smoke alarms that were working (17 percent). Under New York City’s code, all smoke detectors must be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The American Red Cross states the fire death rate in homes with working smoke alarms is 51 percent less than the rate for homes that lack such protection. So, having a working smoke alarm reduces the chance of death by fire or smoke inhalation by nearly half.
Compensation for NYC Fire Victims
In instances where injuries or fatalities occur due to a lack of working smoke alarms or sprinklers etc., the victims or families of deceased victims can file a premises liability claim against the at-fault parties including, but not limited to, the landlord, property owner, property manager, etc. Property owners and/or property managers are responsible for maintaining their properties and ensuring that they are safe for tenants, visitors and guests.
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 obtained a $985,000 settlement out of a $1 million policy for two people who suffered smoke inhalation injuries because the homeowner did not have smoke detectors installed and the $15,000 that was left on the insurance policy for a person that we did not represent. One of our clients recovered $2,500,000 due to a faulty space heater. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.
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