Possible door malfunctions under scrutiny in deadly New York City blaze

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New York authorities said on Monday the city was investigating a possible “maintenance issue” with self-closing doors that failed to function properly when a devastating fire erupted in a Bronx apartment building a day earlier, killing 17 people, including eight children.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, just over a week into the job, said at a briefing that the city’s medical examiner determined the fire had claimed two fewer lives than the 19 announced on Sunday.

Nearly three dozen survivors were hospitalized with severe injuries.

The blaze broke out on Sunday morning in the 19-floor Twin Parks North West building, which provided affordable housing units for low-income New Yorkers. Many of the residents were from the large Gambian immigrant community that lived in the neighborhood.

“This is a global tragedy as the Bronx and New York City is representative of the ethnicities and cultures across the globe,” Adams said during a briefing in front of the building. “This is an evolving crisis. An unspeakable tragedy.”

Adams said he spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden, who pledged that the White House will provide any assistance needed to address the aftermath of the fire.

The catastrophe was likely to stir questions on safety standards in low-income city housing. It was the second major fire in a residential complex in the United States this week after 12 people, including eight children, were killed early on Wednesday when flames swept through a public housing apartment building in Philadelphia.

Crew dressed in white protective suits were on the scene of the Bronx fire cleaning glass and debris off sidewalks on Monday as firefighters and inspectors continued to examine the building’s interior and exterior.

The street was cordoned off where a small group of people gathered, some bringing clothing and other donations for survivors.

SPACE HEATER STARTED FIRE

Fire marshals determined through physical evidence and accounts from residents that the fire started from a portable electric heater in a bedroom of an apartment that spanned the second and third floors of the building. The building’s furnace was functioning, and the portable device that caught fire was being used to supplement central heating, they said.

Earlier in the day on the ABC News program “Good Morning America,” Adams said smoke spread swiftly to other parts of the building due to a faulty self-closing apartment door being left open, rather than shutting automatically as designed in order to help contain fires.

“There may have been a maintenance issue with this door, and that is going to be part of the ongoing investigation,” Adams said. “This is all going to come out during the investigation.”

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