After fatal house fire, Bronx neighbors ask if city may have prevented it

After fatal house fire, Bronx neighbors ask if city may have prevented it

WILLIAMSBRIDGE, the Bronx (PIX11) – Neighbors mourn the loss of a 38-year-old woman who perished in a fire in her home in the Bronx Tuesday, but they also say that stronger enforcement by the city of complaints about conditions at the home may have saved the woman’s life. City officials, meanwhile, say that they actively enforce codes and promote a high quality of life.

The fire erupted just before 2 a.m. at the home at 1126 East 212th Street in Williamsbridge. Surveillance video recorded from a home next door shows that at 1:58 a.m., three people in the lower level of the two-story home ran outside and up the front porch stairs. The lower-level residents tried to reach the woman who lived upstairs from them, according to witnesses, but she was apparently trapped in the burning debris.

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The home has a lot of clutter that’s a fire hazard, according to neighbors. Joyce Whyte lives right next door and said that the sight of it had made her nervous most of the time.

“Yesterday I was right here with my daughter,” Whyte told PIX11 News, “and I said, ‘It’s just a matter of time'” before a tragedy could strike, she said, “because you see [debris], and you say, ‘Oh God, what else?'”

Whyte and other nearby residents said that the home had become increasingly hazardous over the last eight years due to neglect. They said it started when the now deceased woman’s mother, who’d owned the house, passed away in 2016, leaving the home to her adult children, who lived on both floors of the home.

“Everybody’s just been living there,” said another neighbor, who gave only her first name, Nichola.

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“The backyard is full of garbage,” Nichola continued. “Complaints have been made, and they’ve just been doing nothing,” she said.

However, records from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) show only one complaint in the last year against the home. HPD records also show 10 violations against the home, but only one was recent.

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) shows five complaints against the home, but the most recent one was from 2019. The DOB responded to a request for comment for PIX11 News with information showing that it had issued a full vacate order for the home, and had required an engineer to perform a stability inspection, and to seal the building, securely.

The DOB also said that three people who’d lived on the lower level of the home “have been offered emergency relocation assistance from the American Red Cross.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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