bronx fire

Fire Safety Laws Proposed in Wake of Deadly Bronx Apartment Tragedy

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Days after a devastating fire took the lives of 17 adults and children living in a Bronx apartment building, lawmakers returned to introduce legislation designed to safeguard tenants against similar disasters in the future.

Fire safety has been front and center since a malfunctioning space heater sparked a fire and sent suffocating smoke billowing throughout the building's 19 floors. City officials say the four worst fires in recent city history all took place in the Bronx.

“If they make a change it’ll be a miracle. But why did it have to take a disaster to happen like this?" Jeannie Torres, a tenant of the Fordham Heights building, was left asking Friday.

Torres says her apartment building has always had problems, especially with insufficient heat and doors that don't close on their own, both the leading factors in Sunday's inferno.

“We have to ask ourselves what was the deeper cause of the fire? Why were tenants using space heaters in the first place?” Rep. Ritchie Torres said Friday alongside Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, and other city leaders. He announced plans to introduce federal legislation aimed at addressing some of those issues.

One bill would require space heaters to shut off automatically. He also wants to address apartment heating issues by implementing heat sensors that report if apartments are getting enough heat.

“If the space heater would have shut off at Twin Park Northwest the fire would have been prevented," Rep. Torres said.

Under another bill, landlords would have to check and certify doors are self-closing every month.

"We are going to find some purpose in the middle of this pain," Gibson said. "This fire is preventable and was preventable."

A 12-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister were the first victims from the Bronx apartment fire to be laid to rest, as a community continues to grieve. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

Jeannie Torres says it's too little too late. She's seven months pregnant, and while she managed to escape the flames, 17 of her neighbors didn't make it. Torres is focused on them, especially 12-year-old Seydoo Toure.

“I dreamt of him coming to me and telling me 'I’m sorry for banging on your door.' I can barely sleep at night. All I’m thinking of is where is everybody gonna go?” Torres said.

Torres and plenty of her displaced neighbors have been staying at hotels since the fire. They, and many others, have shared their frustration that money raised through the mayor's office and various organizations hasn't reached the pockets of those who need it right away.

“There’s a lot of confusion as to what’s available and what’s not available," said Ken Otisi, a tenant of the building.

“There’s too many agencies involved. I did get $500 from the Red Cross but that’s about it,” Thomas Bush, another tenant, said.

That may soon change. The mayor's office announced Friday the fund established to help the displaced tenants and family members of the victims has raised over $2 million. Each household would be getting $2,250 immediately, the office said.

The financial help comes as the Bronx community gets ready to say goodbye to the victims of the fire. On Sunday, they'll gather for a service at the Islamic Cultural Center.

Survivors of the Bronx fire that killed 17 people are calling for the city and GoFundMe to speed up the release of relief funds because they need help now. NBC New York's Rana Novini reports.
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