Inside the race to find the FDNY’s open door fueling a Bronx Inferno

In the words of one of the first responders alarm at 331 E. 181 St. in the Bronx Just before 11 a.m. on Sunday, they encountered impenetrable smoke as they stepped from the stairs into the main hallway on the third floor of the 19-story building.

The firefighter later told The Daily Beast: “It became a reality, very quickly.

From too many other fires, they knew this could mean the door to one of the apartments was open, supplying oxygen to the fire and allowing smoke to cover whatever part of the building it had. accessible.

“It’s out of power… it’s too hot… we have to find the door,” the fireman said later.

The most immediate problem was finding the way in absolute darkness. They saw when they arrived a man sitting in a third-floor window suggested a possible location. Firefighters from Ladder 56 began walking down the corridor, feeling their way forward in the darkness, the heat forcing them to crawl.

They encountered an unconscious body. And then, inevitably, they reached an open door.

An officer from Ladder 56 was at the door moments before firefighters from Engine 48 arrived by hose.

Firefighters intervened, the ladder company searched for victims and found some people unconscious when the transport company directed the water in the direction of the possible fire. The water evaporates, but the heat still doesn’t drop and the smoke just gets thicker, if that’s possible.

The firefighter later told The Daily Beast.


“Firefighters hoisted a ladder to rescue people through their windows after a fire broke out inside a two-story third-floor apartment at 333 E. 181st St. in the Bronx Sunday. (Theodore Parisienne/ New York Daily News / Tribune News Service via Getty Images )”

New York Daily News

The mystery was soon solved when a firefighter from another company found an open door into the second two-story apartment, down the hallway and to the right. Members of Engine 48 moved into that apartment and battled a raging fire reportedly caused by a space heater that started in the lower half of the mansion and spread to the top.

The fire was so intense that firefighters from Engine 48 were burned even though they had protective gear in the bunker. They continued to push towards the source of the fire from the bottom of the interior stairs, to a lower level with no exit or entrance. They were fighting the equivalent of a terrifying bunker fire. Firefighters often go into the fire, because its heat and smoke are rising. Here they are descending into a hell that is rumbling toward them.

“A tunnel fire in a tall building,” one firefighter later commented.

The members of Engine 48 only stopped when Scott VibraAlerts in their masks signaled that they were running out of gas. Another company has taken over.

When extinguishing the fire, firefighters wanted the door open to let smoke escape into the hallway and out the apartment window. They moved to speed up ventilation by knocking down some of the walls in the hallway, which in a city-sponsored housing project would be just rough blocks but in a privately owned building and This federally subsidized roof sheet is two layers. There was a gap of four inches between the layers and one firefighter suggested this may have given the smoke an extra route to ascend through the building. Upstairs residents will suspect that smoke has also reached them through vents in the kitchen and bathroom.

“You cannot see anything. It’s all smoke. That’s all you can see. Lampblack. This is real? ””

The other residents were blindly fleeing the dense smoke from above as they reached the third floor. Firefighters will remove one person and return to find another collapsed there. They will remove that one just to find another one. Many of those still in the ambulance were stunned.

Meanwhile, 200 other firefighters responded, raising ladders, helping everyone they could get to safety and taking the dead, including nine children. FDNY Coordinator Jimmy Raffery was on hand on his last day of retirement after 25 years and by all accounts he did a fantastic job convening multiple units.



“NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 9: Broken windows and burnt bricks mark the exterior of a 19-story residential building after a fire broke out on the morning of January 9, 2022 in the City’s Bronx borough. New York City. Reports say more than 50 people were injured. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)”

Scott Heins

Upstairs on the 12th floor, Saudi Hammed was spending a quiet Sunday morning with her two children, 8-year-old Deborah and 5-year-old Memsah, when they told her they smelled of smoke.

“I didn’t believe them and took a shower,” she later told The Daily Beast. “Then I heard the frantic sirens.”

Below, one ambulance after another was approaching. Now she could see smoke entering the apartment despite the doors and windows. She slowly opened the door and looked outside.

“You can’t see anything,” she said. “It’s all smoke. That’s all you can see. Lampblack. This is real? ”

She quickly closed the door, then began banging on it to summon anyone who might be out there.

“I need help! I need help!” she remembers calling.

There was no reply and she went back to the window. Memsah stood with her, the family Bible in hand.

“He said, ‘Mom, are we going to be all right?” she remembered.

She fears she will not be able to bring her children through the darkness outside and to safety.

“They will die,” she remembered saying to herself.

She would recall a series of mythical thoughts.

“So should I dance?… Should I throw the kids?… Should I hide them under the bed?”

She decided that their only possible chance, however remote, lay outside the door.

“Continue to pray [but] leave the Bible,” she told her son. “Go and have faith.”

Hammed has asked them to wear the masks they use at school to ward off COVID, arguing that it may provide some mild protection when they venture out. They blindly found their way to the stairs. She instructed them to hold on to the railing, which served as a firm guide as they began to descend.

“They were crying, they were scared,” she later recalled. She said she told them, “Calm down, everything will be fine.”



NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 9: Residents take shelter at the school’s cafeteria after a fire broke out in their 19-story apartment building at dawn on January 9, 2022 in the Bronx borough of the City. New York City. Reports indicate at least 19 people were killed and more than 60 injured. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)”

Scott Heins

Firefighters walk past them. She and her children continued in the dark, remaining conscious as they made their way through the landing stairs on the third floor, eventually reaching the medical staff outside who were frantically working with the less fortunate. Other mothers are screaming because the children are not responding.

“Mom, our home is gone,” Memsah told her mother. “How will we survive?”

Hammed and her children spent the night on a friend’s sofa.

“They don’t sleep,” she said.

She returned to the building Monday morning, hoping to find help. She stood across the street, chilled by the cold wind.

“This morning, when I blew my nose, I was still a bit black,” she said.

A man in a wheelchair arrives at the building, He is shown to be Rick Gropper, one of the owners. He was paralyzed in a car accident when he was a teenager. He’s currently a paralympic skiing champion and a member of Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team, as well as a real estate investor. in construction. But he could also face questions about why two doors that are legally required to close on their own might remain open after a fire breaks out. He could not be reached for comment.

Tenants of the apartment where the fire started told the New York Post on Monday that he may have flung open the door in a panic to get his daughter to safety where it didn’t work. The FDNY said the door may have “malfunctioned”.

The rigs for Ladder 56 and Engine 44 were pulled up to inspect the aftermath. A mural painted on their firehouse door shows a fireman with his head down next to two angels.

“The day the angels cried.

September 11, 2001″

The firefighters who did their fallen predecessors race in danger with pride on January 9, 2021, as the Angels mourn for at least 17 people killed after a machine Space heating started a fire in a two-story apartment where the door was then left open. Inside the race to find the FDNY’s open door fueling a Bronx Inferno


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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