January 9, 2022, not even a full month into the new year, the Treemont neighborhood experienced one of the worst fires in decades. There are currently 19 people dead, 9 of which are children, the youngest victim being only 2-years old. The building is a 19-story apartment complex and the fire started on the third floor because of a space heater. This tragic incident has led people to question the validity of enforcing safety guidelines in the city. A city regulation requires that doors have automatic closing mechanisms, which most residents claim did not occur after they fled their homes, their front doors remained open which allowed the fire to spread and led to many victims dying because of smoke inhalation which not only made it harder to breathe but also see. Residents heard the fire alarms go off in the morning, but because it was so common for the alarm to malfunction, no one believed the reality until 10 am. The lack of visibility made it more difficult for residents to evacuate to safety and required help from the firefighters to exit the building.
Fortunately, some residents managed to escape and are safe to return home, some of which have been moved to higher floors. Even though that sounds like great news, it is bittersweet because there has not been a fixed date to assure when residents would be allowed to return home. Luckily, there are people willing to help soothe the minds of the residents, by working towards long-term solutions that ensure fire safety and safety concerns in general. Reasonably so, many residents have filed a lawsuit that is fighting for $3 billion dollars in damages and alleged negligence in enforcing building codes. One of the companies involved in the lawsuit, Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC claims to be terribly sorry and that they are currently working with the fire department in order to find a solution to the tragedy. While working with the fire department in order to fix the lack of enforcing safety regulations is good, landlords and property owners should not have to wait to lose lives in order to make sure their tenants are safe. That being said, many people spectate that the number being asked for in the lawsuit will most likely increase.
Some of the charges filed in the lawsuit include failures in providing enough heat and having intercom and sprinkler systems installed. Political officials are now dealing with the task of rebuilding the apartment complex that guarantees safety by taking the most preventable measures of working smoke detectors and the like. Safety violations were not maintained and thus caused over sixty residents to be injured, some in critical condition. The New York fire safety laws require landlords to provide more heat to tenants in freezing weather. This highlights why certain laws are enforced and why there are consequences if there is not constantly checking. As a result of the tragedy, the Twin Parks Task Force on Fire Prevention was created. The main objective of this task force is to ensure fire safety protocols are enforced and that there are new ones created in order to ensure New York citizens are safe. Councilmember Oswald Feliz is determined to promote fire safety but is concerned with there being many pushbacks given that cost will be an issue. One of Feliz’s main proposals is to strengthen heating requirements for apartments when the temperature is below freezing and discourage the use of dangerous space heaters, which can result in disasters like the Bronx apartment fire.
A major push for legislation involves how federally funded buildings should be subjected to following fire safety codes. This has been brought up since the apartment building was constructed with the help of federal funding in 1972, which the fire department confirmed in a released statement that the building was not following fire safety protocol, which some officials add was most likely not a factor of the fire. Let’s hope that an incident like this never happens again and that legislation pushes for obligated inspections as well as prioritizing the safety of their citizens.