"Bunch of calls on this one, chief", an official said over the radio as fire units rushed to the scene.
A 3-YEAR-OLD boy playing with stove burners accidentally ignited the fire that ripped through a NY apartment building, killing 12 people, including four children, the city's fire department chief said yesterday.
Four of the victims were children, including one- and two-year-old toddlers.
"I heard that he was trying to help people out". He said the baby's mother wasn't home because she was working.
The plaster and brick structure, built in 1916, had six open violations including for a defective smoke detector, The New York Times reported, though De Blasio said there was nothing problematic "as far as we can see". As people panicked, fleeing into the halls and the fire escapes, the open doors and windows sucked the fire upward.
"He brought four people out", said his uncle, Twum Bredu, who lives next door. "He helped his roommate's wife and children, they were trying to come out to the stairs and he stopped them".
Esther Sakyi, 50, said she was alone in her bedroom when she felt the room getting hot. It took him a moment to realize what was happening. "He just came for the holidays", he said.
Sakyi ran back through her apartment to the fire escape, still naked in the frigid night air.
Firefighters were at the scene within three minutes. "I am still in shock".
According to Daniel A Nigro, the city fire commissioner, who was quoted by the New York Times, the boy who turned on the gas stove inadvertently had a history of being fascinated with gas burners. Excluding the September 11 attacks, it was the worst fire in the city since 87 people were killed at a social club fire in the Bronx in 1990. A fire in a home in another part of the Bronx killed 10 people, including nine children, in 2007.
"From what we know right now, there was not a problem with the building", de Blasio said.
The building's owner, Howard Alkoff, could not be reached for comment.
"The stairway acted like a chimney", the fire commissioner said.
"And also you've seen the ads: close the door, close the door, close the door", Nigro said. "If there is a fire, you must close the door".
A dozen people died, and four others were fighting for their lives a day after the flames broke out in the century-old building near the Bronx Zoo.
Late Friday, NYPD revealed the identities of several others killed in fire: Shantay Young, 19; Karen Francis, 37; Kylie Francis, 2; and Charmela Francis, 7.
The cause remained under investigation.
Following the blaze, the fire department set up stands offering fire prevention information in the city.
Some neighborhood residents ventured by in the cold to offer donations and support.
"That's his nature. That's how he is", he said. "It just kept going next and up - it escalated".
Abigail Hauslohner is a national reporter who covers Islam, Arab affairs and America.