Officials of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) stated that were no working smoke detectors in a Queens apartment building that caught fire in October 2013. The fire, which began in the basement around 2:00 p.m., quickly spread up a stairwell. After firefighters found a man unconscious in the attic, he was rushed to Long Island Jewish Medical Center with critical injuries; he was pronounced dead a short time later. Another man suffered from minor injuries after he jumped from a window to escape the burning apartment building. He was transported to a local hospital and is expected to recover. The blaze, which erupted at a two-story home on 94-67 Springfield Boulevard in Queens village, took one hour for firefighters to bring under control.
Over a one-week period in October 2013, five people were killed and four people were injured in residential house fires in New York City. In all cases, the homes or buildings lacked working smoke detectors. In 2012, 58 people were killed in New York City fires. Seventy-two percent of these fatalities occurred in homes or buildings that lacked smoke detectors.
Commenting on the fatalities that occurred over a short time period in October 2013, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano stated, “Five people we lost in fires, and no smoke detectors. In my mind these are preventable deaths.”
In one fire that erupted in mid-October 2013, a 63-year-old taxi driver and his 91-year-old mother were killed after flames quickly engulfed their two-story brick Brooklyn home. FDNY officials stated that the fire was caused by a space heater that was powered by a long extension cord which was stapled to the floor. The staples exposed the copper wiring which began to spark. Several neighbors helped the man’s wife, daughter and infant grandson escape from the home. However, neighbors, who reported that the heat caused the windows to explode, stated that the hot flames and heavy smoke prevented them from rescuing the taxi driver and his elderly mother.
During the same time period, three children were killed in a Bronx house fire caused by a burning candle. According to FDNY officials, unattended candles during the holidays are the cause of many fires. In addition, during the cooler months, people often try to heat large drafty home by turning on the over or stove burner. Such actions can result in house fires. Cassano stated that the causes of such fires can easily be eliminated. He stated, “These tragedies are preventable.”
In response to the fatal fires, the FDNY handed out 1,000 free smoke detectors to city residents who didn’t have one in their homes. In addition, the department also handed out battery-operated candles for people to use during the holiday season.