By Leonel Henriquez
2017 ended in flames for tenants of two Bronx buildings that caught fire within 48 hours of one another. The first fire, in the Norwood section of the Bronx, saw an entire building evacuated.
Thirty-seven families were displaced after the four-alarm fire broke out at 3414 Knox Place on Wednesday, Dec. 27. Almost 200 firefighters responded to the early morning blaze that started around 4:30 a.m. while residents were sound asleep. Tenants were awakened by firefighters banging on their doors -- yelling at them to get out.
The fire, which started in a top-floor apartment, could be seen roaring through the windows and engulfing the roof. It took hours to put out and could still be seen smoldering later that afternoon. The FDNY and NYC Department of Buildings deemed the six-floor, 37-unit building unsafe, due to extensive water and fire damage, and subsequently-revealed structural damage to the building -- displacing all its residents. The Red Cross is assisting three-dozen displaced residents.
The second fire, which occurred the following day in the Belmont section of the Bronx, killed 12 people and hospitalized four others. The fire started just before 7 p.m. on the first floor of 2363 Prospect Avenue, on Thursday, Dec. 28, when a three-and-a-half-year- old boy was playing with the stove. It quickly engulfed and destroyed the entire five-story, 25-unit building, permanently displacing residents.
The community quickly rallied in support of the victims. Neighborhood activist Kim Seabrook, working with Justice League NYC said, “We already raised over $1,200 in 24 hours to help the families. They’re currently at the high school and they are taking donations there, too.”
The displaced residents were temporarily being housed at the Grace H. Dodge Career and Technical High School by the Red Cross. However, victims of the fire had to quickly relocate, as school resumed the first week of January. Outside the now boarded-up building, workers could be seen beginning to excavate the structure as upset tenants looked on.
“I live here. My apartment is on the first floor, too,” Thierno Diallo told the Meridian.“I just wanted to see if I could salvage anything from my apartment, but they [New York City Office of Emergency Management] won’t let me in yet. I have to come back tomorrow.”
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on 187th Street and St. Martin of Tours Church were overwhelmed with donations for the survivors. “The people in the neighborhood are coming to together to help the displaced families,” said Seabrook. “It’s a terrible tragedy.” A growing memorial for those killed by the fire sits just feet away from the charred building. “A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for funeral costs,” she said.