Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bronx Fire in Belmont Area on Prospect Avenue Kills 12

It seems to never fail. During the holidays there is always a tragedy of some sort. This time the tragedy was close to home, so to speak. A huge fire broke out at 2363 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, New York in the Belmont section. This area is known for Little Italy, The Bronx Zoo and Fordham University. It is also just blocks from where I grew up. The area used to be mostly Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish, Jewish with a few Polish, Germans and African Americans when I was little. Eventually, Mexicans, Albanians, Africans, Ecuadorians and Dominicans began to populate the area. The old fashion tenement buildings are everywhere with a few houses still left over. 2363 is one such tenement with the charm of days long gone. Unfortunately, it became the place where twelve people died.

According to reports, the fire broke out in the first floor and made its way up to the fifth. People tried to escape via the fire escapes but they became crowded. Residents left with only the clothes they had on. Many were children who were barefoot wearing pajamas or t-shirts. As you may know, New York and most of the nation is under an artic blast. The temperatures was as low as 11 degrees during the time of the fire. This cold weather gave the fuel necessary for the fire to grow out of control due to the airy conditions.

Fire fighters investigating the fire believe a three year old child was playing with the stove as his mother was showering. She came out to find the kitchen ablaze. As anyone would do in such a scenario, she escaped but did something wrong. The mother left the door open. Fire fighters always remind citizens that they are to close the door during a fire in order to contain it and possibly weaken it as it loses oxygen to feul on. The building built in 1916 during a time where fire concerns were not a priority. Its interior is wooden and it had no elevator. Residents relied on stairs to get to their floors. All of this, the airy weather and the mother of the toddler who started the fire negligence contributed to the fire getting out of hand. Flames escaped the opened door and moved up through the stairs kiling people on each floor. Among the dead is an 8 month old who was playing with gifts from Christmas while being babysat by her grandmother. The grandmother called her daughter to say goodbye and letting her know that she and the 8 month old would not make it. Both were found dead by fire fighters in their tub; grandmother clutching the baby in her arms.

Fire fighters from local 18th Battalion, a firehouse I often visited during my elementary school years for school trips were the first on the scene. They wer emet with cold conditions which made using water nearly impossible. Moreover, the hydrant nearby did not work. They had to use a hydrant on 187st street which was working. Survivors of the fire are upset with the mother of the child who started the fire. They claim that she did not warn them of the fire. She has not been identified. Four others remain hospitalized with one in a coma and not expected to survive. One victim actually went back into the burning building several times to rescue others. U.S. Army mechanic Emmanuel Mensah was home from serving duty. He was found in a fourth floor apartment dead.

Immediately, the Catholic Church took action to help those affected by the fire. Our lady of Mount Carmel pastor Father Morris was at the scene offering support and prayers. A prayer service is scheduled at his parish on January 2nd. Another nearby parish, St. Martin of Tours where my uncle served as a deacon and my grand mother attended also started a clothing drive. So far, only the Catholic Church has been active in humanitarian aid. Local Baptist, Kingdom Halls, Mosques and Pentecostal organizations have not been present to help.

You can donate at:

Let us pray for all those affected. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering the family and friends of the fire victims are experiencing. To lose people just days after Christmas is heart-breaking.


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