Six people are dead after a fire broke out in a Harlem apartment building early this morning. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, "We are in the business of saving lives and in this instance we were not able to. It is very difficult to deal with this loss and our hearts are with the friends and family of the deceased."
Nigro explained that the FDNY received a call around 1:40 a.m. from a resident of a building across the street, reporting a fire at 2441 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at West 142nd Street, a NYCHA building in the Frederick Samuel Houses complex. When firefighters got to the scene, Nigro said, "We were met with fire at the large fifth floor corner apartment. The entire apartment was involved. Our members aggressively moved in extinguishing the fire. When they reached the two rear bedrooms, they found six occupants of that apartment deceased, four children and two adults."
UPDATE: Harlem Fire Death toll
CAUSE: Accidental, after a stove burner was left on in their 5th floor kitchen per FDNY source. @PIX11News @FDNY pic.twitter.com/WRVBPRytVd
— Anthony DiLorenzo (@ADiLorenzoTV) May 8, 2019
The deceased victims were a 45-year-old woman, a 33-year-old man, an 11-year-old girl, an 8-year-old boy, a 6-year-old girl, and a 3-year-old boy. The fire marshal is investigating the cause of the blaze; an FDNY source tells PIX 11 that the fire may have been caused by a burner left on a stove in the kitchen. The Post reports that "the investigators’ working theory is that Andrea Pollidore, 45, left a stovetop burner on and then fell asleep in her apartment."
Raven Reyes, 27, Pollidore’s daughter who didn’t live with her, told Gothamist/WNYC that her mother was in another fire in 2013, in Brooklyn, and had suffered first-degree burns and subsequently moved to Harlem. "She lost her memory," Reyes said. "She was in a coma, everything." Reyes also lost siblings in this week's fire, and said, "My little brothers and sisters, they just was perfect... amazing... just want to say, God, hold my family up with them golden gates, welcome them in."
About 100 firefighters helped bring the fire under control in over an hour. Other residents of the building evacuated, with one 55-year-old man telling the NY Post, "There was so much smoke you couldn’t even see. We went to the back fire escape... It was scary. I had to carry the dog all five flights. I went down the fire escape… My [75-year-old] mom was holding on to me in the back. She was scared. I said: ‘don’t look down!’"
"I didn't hear any alarms, everyone was sleeping. Neighbors started screaming, 'Everybody hurry up, hurry up, come outside, it's a fire, it's a fire,'" one resident told WABC 7.
"Suddenly, there was a big fireball," a resident across the street told the NY Times. "It just blasted out. Everything came out. All the windows came out. It was just a big ball of fire."
A friend of the victims told the Daily News, "They are good to us. The daughter was my daughter‘s best friend. I saw them yelling out the window... They all died in that corner room."
Additional reporting by Mirela Iverac.