Soldier Home For The Holidays Died While Saving Lives in Bronx Fire

Instead, the blaze at the five-story apartment building near the Bronx Zoo became his last stand. Emmanuel was one of 12 to lose their lives in the fire, the deadliest since the 1990 Happy Land Social Club arson took 87 lives less than a mile away.

"The stairway acted like a chimney", Nigro said.

His mother grabbed him and a younger sibling, running outside to safety and leaving the apartment door open. A mother and three children were killed when a fire tore through their Brooklyn home on December 18.

At least 20 people scrambled out via fire escapes on a bitterly cold night, but others could not.

"He brought four people out", said his uncle, Twum Bredu, who lives next door.

"He just came for the holidays", he said of Emmanuel, who was staying in an apartment with friends.

Sakyi ran back through her apartment to the fire escape, still naked in the frigid night air. "I am still in shock".

Shortly before 7 p.m. (midnight GMT) on Thursday the child, who had been left unattended, started screaming as the kitchen filled with smoke and fire, Daniel Nigro, the city's fire department commissioner, told reporters at a news conference.

In 2007, 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building. But the flames moved so fast, spreading through every floor of the building within minutes, that many never made it out of their apartments.

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Nigro said investigators had not yet determined how numerous building's fire alarms were working at the time of the fire.

"This tragedy is, without question, historic in its magnitude", said Nigro.

"We get 75 to 100 referrals per year of children who are fascinated with fire, playing with fire", he said.

They included Karen Francis, 37, her 2-year-old daughter Kylie, and her 7-year-old daughter Charmela. "If there is a fire, you must close the door".

Numerous 25 families who lived in the Bronx apartment building were immigrants, "hard-working people going about their lives", said Jonathan Morris, the priest at the nearby Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, who said he spent Thursday night with the families at St. Barnabas Hospital as they were called upon to identify the dead. Also identified as deceased were Maria Batiz, 58, and 19-year-old Shantay Young.

The father lives next door to the now non-existent building.

The Red Cross is providing temporary housing, along with food, drinks, blankets and mental health care to those residents in need.

Investigators remained at the scene Friday afternoon, where fire trucks lined the street and pedestrian access was blocked.

"That's what I think, because it was in his nature", the elder Mensah said. "It just kept going next and up - it escalated".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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