Bronx apartment fire latest: Blaze started by 3-year-old playing with stove, fire commissioner says

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Updated Dec 29, 2017 3:41 PM EST

NEW YORK — A four-alarm fire that claimed the lives of at least 12 people in New York City was caused by a 3-and-a-half-year-old boy who was playing with burners on a kitchen stove located in a first-floor apartment, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced Friday. During a news conference, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the boy had a history of playing with the burners and turning them on.

The boy’s mother said she was unaware that he was playing with the stove at the time. When she was alerted by his screaming, she exited the apartment with her children and left the door open, which caused flames to quickly spread up the open stairway, acting like a chimney. 

“Children starting fires is not rare,” Nigro said. “The department has a program to educate children, and we get 75 to 100 referrals a year about children that have issues with playing with fire or being fascinated by fire. It’s not particularly unusual, but very sad.”

“This loss is unprecedented,” he continued. “The lessons here of children left unattended … how dangerous this can be. It saddens our entire department this time of year that our members are carrying out folks, including young children.” 

The blaze erupted Thursday night in the five-story building, located a block from the grounds of the Bronx Zoo. Dangerously fast-moving flames spread throughout every floor of the building within minutes.   

Fire Department of New York (FDNY) personnel work on the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S. December 28, 2017.

AMR ALFIKY / REUTERS

Firefighters responded to the scene in just over three minutes. It took several hours for crews to contain the flames. 

Residents who attempted to leave the building through the stairway ultimately perished in the flames, according to Nigro. Other tenants who climbed…

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