Adams: NYC probing door malfunction in Bronx fire that left at least 19 dead

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City officials are investigating maintenance problems that may have prevented an apartment door from closing automatically and allowed a deadly fire to spread in the Bronx, Mayor Eric Adams said Monday.

The fire in the Bronx apartment building on Sunday killed at least 19 people, including nine children. It was New York City’s deadliest blaze in decades.

The fire was caused by a malfunctioning space heater and spread because an apartment door was left open, authorities have said. A city law, passed in response to previous fatal fires, requires apartment buildings to have self-closing doors.

“The investigation is still ongoing. The Fire Department marshalls will conduct a very thorough and comprehensive investigation,” Adams said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.“

“It appears the ability to have the smoke spread is due to the door being open. We do have a law, as it was mentioned, that it should close automatically,” Adams said. “There may have been a maintenance issue with this door, and that’s going to be part of the ongoing investigation.”

Key context: The death toll in the Bronx fire is the worst since the 1990 blaze at the Happy Land social club, in which 87 people were killed.

Adams said there were no outstanding heat complaints at the building when asked why tenants were using space heaters to stay warm.

However, Department of Housing Preservation and Development records show four previous complaints about lack of heat from February through December 2021.

The Bronx building is owned by a group of investors including Camber Property Group. Camber’s co-founder, Rick Gropper, was named as a contributor to Adams’ transition team on housing, the New York Times first reported.

Officials are also investigating reports that the building’s fire alarms frequently malfunctioned and went off without cause, Adams said.

He said there were self-closing doors installed in the building, but the door to the apartment where the fire started may have been malfunctioning.

The city also plans to run public service announcements urging people to close their doors when evacuating a building in case of a fire, Adams said.

What’s next: The mayor predicted there would be new changes to fire codes and legislation in response to the fire, similar to the Happy Land fire more than three decades ago.

“We learned from that. We made modifications in our laws and our buildings code. We’re going to learn from this moment as well,” he said on CNN.

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