Surviving a house fire

My living room on the day after the fire. Photo by Kelila Hegazy

My living room on the day after the fire. Photo by Kelila Hegazy

Kelila Hegazy, Staff Writer

Last month in New York, fire alarms went off in an apartment building complex located in the Bronx. When officials arrived at the scene the smoke was so thick that some residents could not escape. As a result, 17 people died, including eight children. The cause of the fire was a malfunctioned space heater in one of the bedrooms of the apartment. 

In 2018, a law in New York passed, making self-closing doors a requirement in buildings with three or more apartments, according to an article published by CNN. In the Bronx complex, there are doors installed to automatically close when the fire alarm goes off. 

“The doors were supposed to close automatically, but the apartment door, as well as the door from the stairwell to the 15th floor, were not functioning properly,” Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the New York City Fire Department said in the same CNN article.

Some reasons why 17 people died in the fire were because the building layout and evacuation protocols are outdated. Within the building, there are no fire escapes and the fire alarms would constantly malfunction. According to another CNN article, due to these reasons, the complex is under investigation. A study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association states that the leading cause for fires started by heating is 24% of structural fires in manufacturing facilities.

Back in 2020, my house burned down when my neighbor’s living room caught on fire. I understand a lot of the dangers and risks that come with the situation. According to the fire department report, the cause of the fire is undetermined. The area of the fire was located in the living room of my downstairs neighbors. The fire department’s theory is there was faulty wiring in the living room or kitchen that caused the fire to spread upwards. 

When I dealt with my own house fire, the experience happened so fast. My initial thoughts were about putting shoes on and getting my cat carriers. Most of the thoughts that were running through my mind were, ¨Where are my shoes?” ¨I need my cats, where are they?¨ ¨Is my mom okay?¨ 

Clear exits and staying calm helped me safely escape my house. Being prepared saved my family and I highly advise planning for emergency situations and evacuations – buying supplies and knowing what to do in a stressful situation. Some supplies that we bought beforehand were a fire escape ladder. Luckily, my mom was a wildland firefighter and had some knowledge on how to deal with a fire. 

The Bronx fire was a horrible tragedy that killed and injured many people, and could have been prevented. In a state more prone to large wildfires like California, the effects could have been worse. To avoid more events like this, check objects and areas that can cause a fire, such as space heaters, faulty wiring, and other exposed hazards. For a more comprehensive list, do your own research on the causes of house fires.