bronx fire

Lawmakers Propose Federal Fire Safety Reforms in Wake of NYC High-Rise Tragedy

The Jan. 9 Bronx blaze killed 17 and was the city’s deadliest building fire in more than three decades

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In the wake of the high-rise fire that killed 17 in the Bronx earlier this month, lawmakers from New York are proposing federal fire safety legislation addressing sprinklers, space heaters, doors and other residential building standards.

Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Ritchie Torres say their four-point plan includes critical measures needed to prevent the kind of tragedy and loss seen in the Bronx high-rise fire and to “help advance a culture of safety in housing and in consumer products.” 

The proposed measures, announced at a Bronx news conference in the shadow of the burned Bronx building, would:

  • Subsidize sprinkler installation in public and Section 8 housing
  • Require self-closing doors in federally funded and federally regulated multifamily housing units
  • Require space heaters to have automatic shut-off features
  • allow the U.S. Fire Administration to collect and distribute better data to local authorities
"If there is a fire in your apartment, the most important thing you do is get out of that apartment ...but close the door behind you." James Slevin from the International Association of Firefighters 1st District talks about best practices to stay safe after an apartment fire in the Bronx, New York, that killed 19 people.

"Let's be clear - it's systemic reforms that are needed to housing infrastructure, not just in public housing, but in all of them, especially the ones in partnership with HUD. And the federal government can set an example - if we require this in all federal housing ... if we can get that done, we can set the model for the whole country, so this doesn't happen again," Schumer said.

The Jan. 9 Bronx blaze killed 17, including eight children, and was the city’s deadliest building fire in more than three decades. Officials said safety doors failed to close when fire broke out in the 19-story building, allowing thick smoke to rise through the tower. A faulty electric space heater in a third-floor apartment apparently started the fire, officials said.

Legislations at both local and federal levels are being introduced to address fire safety concerns following the deadly fire in the Bronx that killed 17 people. NBC New York's Rana Novini reports.

The flames damaged only a small part of the building, but smoke poured through the apartment’s open door and turned stairwells into dark, ash-choked death traps. The stairs were the only method of escape in a tower too tall for fire escapes. All of those who lost their lives collapsed and were overcome by smoke while trying to descend the stairwell.

New York City fire codes generally require apartment doors at larger apartment developments to be spring-loaded and slam shut automatically. Outgoing Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the apartment’s front door and a door on the 15th floor should have been self-closing and blunted the spread of smoke, but the doors stayed fully open. Nigro said the apartment door was not obstructed.

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