Last night, a horrific fire raged through a four-story home in the Highbridge section of the Bronx and claimed the lives of nine people. Children were thrown out of the windows and one woman jumped to escape the three-alarm fire. Fire officials say the fire started in the basement and fire floor, quickly spreading throughout the building. A witness told the NY Times, "It was an inferno. Smoke everywhere."
Neighbors caught children that were thrown from the building; one man, King Heath, told the Post, "The lady held one kid out the window. I caught one and the other guy caught the other one. She tossed him from the second floor. She jumped afterwards." The children's mother who jumped hit the sidewalk hard and broke her leg. She was taken to the hospital, where she later died.
A witness told the Daily News that "his relatives, immigrants from Mali, were trapped in the fire"; the witness also said his cousin owned the house and that one big family lived there. The neighborhood is home to many African immigrants, and it was unclear how many people or families lived in the building. The Times has an MP3 from reporter Jennifer 8. Lee on the scene.
Update: The Mayor had a press conference today, and here are some notable facts: The fire may have started from a space heater or power strip. There were two smoke detectors, but no batteries (with daylight savings time around the corner, change the batteries). The fire started in the basement, in a room which had the door open. The fire spread through the stairwell, trapping people upstairs.
Nine people died, and at least 22 people were living there. Mayor Bloomberg was asked if having so many people living in one space contributed to the fire, and he said, "It probably did." He also called it the worst loss of life from a fire (not counting September 11) since the 1990 Happyland social club fire, which was also in the Bronx.
Of the eight children who died, 7 were boys and 1 was a girl; two were twin infants, they were all under the age of 8. And 17-19 people were injured. The residents attempted to put the fire out on their own. The FDNY responded in just over 3 minutes of the emergency call, which is apparently pretty good. When asked about the fire, Bloomberg said it was, "one small building, but one very large tragedy for our city."
Photograph of the Bronx home ravaged by a 3-alarm fire by Jason DeCrow/AP
So let me understand this. The federal government is "granting" millions of dollars to hundreds of different fire departments all across the country--places like Bridgeport Connecticut, Kansas City Missouri, Rochester New York, Seattle Washington, Los Angeles California... on and on and on. Hundreds of cities, large and small, rich and poor, from sea to shining sea.
But where did all that money come from?
From the taxes paid by, well, the people who live in... places like Bridgeport Connecticut, Kansas City Missouri, Rochester New York, Seattle Washington, Los Angeles California... on and on and on. They pay taxes to the federal government, where it gets filtered through the hands of bureaucrats, who then send (part of) the money back to the very places that it came from. Round and round it goes.
What exactly is the point of this? Where in here does it say the federal government should pay for local fire departments? Don't tell me the "general welfare" clause. If the Constitution can mean anything, it means nothing.
Here is an article from JEMS about emergency preparedness in the Chicago Fire Department. Chief Trotter was the brand-new Chief in Chicago a couple of years ago when I went to the High-Rise Firefighting Symposium there. He seemed like a slick/smooth politician type.
I think he had been hired as a remedial measure after a couple of disasterous high-rise fires (one was the Lasalle Street fire) that damaged that department's reputation.