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‘Heavy fire condition and a lot of clutter': FDNY faces fatal apartment fire

The victim stayed inside the burning Bronx apartment as neighbors begged him to leave

By Ellen Moynihan, Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A man died in a raging fire that tore through a Bronx apartment early Thursday and left a woman clinging to life, FDNY officials said.

The fire broke out on the second floor of the three-story E. 176th St. building near Topping Ave. in Mount Hope at about 6:10 a.m.

An electrical fan may have sparked the blaze, according to landlord Linford Douglas, who saw the fan burning in his tenant’s apartment when he went to investigate the smoke.

After being alerted to the fire, Douglas, 72, forced open a second-floor apartment door and saw the electrical fan on fire. He immediately threw water on it and threw it down the stairs.

“It kept burning because it was plastic, and the plastic was melting,” Douglas told the Daily News. “I go for [more] water and come back, and I see her door was on fire now.”

A man in his 50s was pulled out of the fire and died at the scene, police said. His name was not immediately released.

The victim barricaded himself inside his apartment bathroom as the fire raged, even after neighbors implored him to leave the building.

“I told him to leave,” neighbor William Martinez recalled. “I said, ‘We have to get out of here!’ And he just turned around and went right back in.”

The fatal decision left Martinez, 79, rattled.

“He knows the place is full of smoke,” Martinez said. “He knows me, and I’m one of the tenants trying to get out of there. He still walked into the bathroom and locked the door.

A woman believed to be between 30 and 40 who also lived on the second floor suffered smoke inhalation, and a firefighter battling the blaze wrenched his knee, the FDNY said.

Both were taken to area hospitals, where the woman was listed in critical condition.

The fire was extinguished within two hours.

FDNY Deputy Chief Christopher Ritchie said that a “clutter condition” prevented firefighters from getting water on the blaze.

“When we got there, there was heavy fire on the second floor and third floor that extended into the attic,” he said. “There was a lot of clutter, so it took some time to get to the scene where the fire was.”

At least four people were displaced from their homes by the fire, police said.

FDNY fire marshals are investigating what sparked the blaze.

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