Mayor de Blasio, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, and NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia Hold Media Availability to Provide Update on Fire at Frederick E. Samuel Houses
NEW YORK CITY STRONG – Office of the Mayor reports 5.8.2019 –
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Alright. It is a very painful day for our city. This is a horrible loss and we woke up this morning and heard about the unspeakable – a whole family, and I want to say as a father, hearing that four children were lost in a single family is just extraordinarily painful. Two adults, four children – this is a gut-wrenching moment for all of us. There’s a full investigation underway, and I’ll turn to Commissioner Nigro and Chair Garcia in a moment to tell you what we know, but I want to emphasize the information we have is preliminary and there will need to be a full investigation. At this point, all signs point to simply a horrible, terrible accident, but we will go through the full investigation to get all the facts. Over 100 members of the FDNY rushed to the scene of this fire. I want to thank them for their bravery, I want to thank them for doing all they could to save this family and the way they protected so many others in this building. We need to keep the Pollidore family in our prayers, in our thoughts, we need to be there for the surviving members of the family, all of us as New Yorkers are feeling this tragedy together.
But now I want you to hear what do know, again, preliminarily, starting with our Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Okay, as I said earlier this morning, this fire call came in at 1:40 am, and we were here in three minutes, and when the firefighters arrived fire met them at the door of the apartment, fire was out the windows on two sides of the building. It’s a large apartment on the fifth floor, six-room apartment. Firefighters pushed in rapidly but were unable to save the members of this family who were found in two bedrooms.
Preliminarily, we believe the fire was an accident and that it started in the kitchen, on the stove, quickly extended out of the kitchen, and eventually involved every room in this apartment, including the two rooms where the victims were found. It’s a difficult operation for the Department, we’re in the life-saving business and we take this very personally when we’re unable to save this family.
Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner. I want to thank all of the community members and leaders who are here, I want to thank the Borough President for being here with us in solidarity with this community. Now I want to turn to NYCHA Chair Garcia.
Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia, NYCHA: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This has been a very tragic day for the NYCHA family. What we know about this building is that it’s 62 units and contains 129 families. It was constructed in 1910 and renovated in 1994. Our records indicate that a smoke alarm, combination carbon monoxide detector, was installed in June of 2017 and that it was tested in January of 2019.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Chair. Okay, we’re just going to take a few questions and then there will be more briefings as the investigation proceeds. A few questions now –
Question: [Inaudible] heard from [inaudible] from several neighbors that nobody heard any sort of smoke alarms in the building and that they were only able to get out because neighbors were banging on doors as they were getting out themselves. Is there a [inaudible] that a smoke alarm didn’t go off in the building itself?
Mayor: We want to investigate that very question. And as you heard from the Chair, there had been a smoke alarm installed, it had been tested this January. The whole idea and the whole reason for the Fire Department investigation is to understand everything that happened. But we can’t conjecture at this point.
Question: Is there a way to determine how people were not able to get to a door or a fire escape from the bedrooms that they were in?
Commissioner Nigro: Well, the kitchen is the closest room to the front door and the fire escapes from this apartment are on the side of that apartment, opposite from the bedrooms that were in this corner. So, they were unable to get to either door of their apartment or the windows that are on the fire escape, and that was it.
Question: [Inaudible] smoke detector hardwired or battery –
Interim Chair Garcia: The smoke detector is battery operated.
Question: What is the policy on checking the smoke detectors?
Interim Chair Garcia: So, the policy at NYCHA is that there is an inspection every two years and then any time a maintenance worker goes into the apartment they are required to check the smoke detectors as well as several other items for safety.
Mayor: I mean it’s just – it’s horrible to look at. And it’s – as a father, just thinking about that, you know, yesterday evening four children went to bed and they’re gone now. It’s very, very painful. We obviously need to know everything that happened here. But, you know, most importantly our hearts and our prayers need to be with this family.
Unknown: Last one.
Question: Commissioner, I know it’s very early – I know that the indications that the fire started [inaudible] anything that perhaps [inaudible]?
Commissioner Nigro: Well, we educate folks to not leave the stove unattended when they’re cooking. What exactly happened in the apartment – we’ll never know and how the fire started. Where it started, we’ll be able to tell. How exactly that happened, we won’t.
Mayor: Last one – go ahead.
Commissioner Nigro: What was that question?
Commissioner Nigro: The – there is some water damage below and there is some fire damage in the apartment directly above as the fire went from the windows of the fire apartment to the next floor.
Mayor: Last one – go ahead.
Question: What relationship does the [inaudible] man have to the –
Mayor: Does anyone know that? Or we need to get back –
Interim Chair Garcia: We don’t know that.
Mayor: We’ll get that back to you. There will be a fuller briefing later as more information occurs. Thank you, everyone.
Commissioner Nigro: Thank you.