NEW YORK — The Bronx apartment where a deadly fire erupted that killed 17 people had several space heaters running at the time of the fire — and all of them, including the one that sparked the fire, had been left on for days, New York City Fire Department sources said Tuesday.
Firefighters made the discovery as they sifted through the scorched rubble of the second-floor duplex apartment where the Sunday morning fire started.
It was not immediately clear how many space heaters were in use when the fire erupted.
The blaze sent thick plumes of choking smoke throughout the Twin Parks North West building on E. 181st Street near Tiebout Avenue in Fordham Heights.
The fire is the city’s deadliest since the 1990 blaze at the Bronx’s Happy Land Social Club. More than 30 people were rushed to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries. By Sunday afternoon, 17 had died, including eight children.
All of them died from smoke inhalation, a spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner said.
Only three of the victims had been officially identified by the city’s medical examiner Tuesday morning.
FDNY marshals are trying to determine what caused the space heater to erupt into flames and why the apartment’s self-closing door that should have kept the smoke from spreading throughout the building malfunctioned and remained open.
Investigators said the heat in the building was working but some residents were supplementing the heat with portable space heaters.
Portable space heaters are involved in about 1,700 fires nationwide a year, resulting in about 80 deaths, 160 injuries per year, and $62 million in damage, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In 2019, a portable space heater plugged into a power strip sparked a fire in Flatbush, Brooklyn. A man in his 60s died after he jumped from the building to escape the flames. Seven other people, including a police officer who raced to the scene, were also injured.
The FDNY is continually putting out public service announcements on the proper use of portable space heaters, which should be kept at least 3 feet from any bedding and furniture and must be plugged directly into a wall socket and not an extension cord.