Footage recorded by a resident of the Bronx building where 17 people died in a fire on January 9 shows heavy smoke pouring out of windows, and firefighters later helping residents evacuate down a stairwell.
Yesbely Fernandez was in her 15th floor duplex apartment at 333 East 181st Street when the fire began shortly before 11 am, according to authorities. Fernandez told Storyful that she heard fire alarms, but disregarded them at first because they were such a regular occurrence in the building. But after seeing smoke outside her windows, Fernandez and others in the apartment gathered their coats to leave, only to find the hallways choked with smoke, which began to fill her living room.
“The hallways to my building were death traps. We were all trapped in our apartments with nowhere to go,” Fernandez wrote in an appeal after the fire on Gofundme.com.
After placing a wet towel at the bottom of their front door, Fernandez, her boyfriend, and two other family members took shelter in a room with the window wide open.
“I laid on the floor, started calling my mother telling her what was going on. She reminded me I needed to stay calm,” Fernandez told Storyful. “I just kept thinking, What if they don’t come get us out of this apartment? What if the smoke grows stronger?”
Fernandez began filming out of an open window shortly after 11 am, and continued documenting her experience until just after 12:30, when firefighters were able to evacuate residents on their floor.
More than 200 firefighters responded to the five-alarm fire, and found people on every floor of the 19-story building, according to the FDNY. Dozens of victims were hospitalized, with as many as 13 admitted in critical condition. Authorities said the blaze was sparked by a space heater.
Fernandez said she is grateful to have survived, but is struggling in the aftermath of New York City’s worst fire in decades.
“They just placed me in a hotel last night. I had to … just leave with the clothes on my back. I’m a full-time student. So I am not working at the moment, which is even harder for me,” Fernandez told Storyful. “I need to figure out how to eat, get soap, and just basic needs for myself and my family.” Credit: Yesbely Fernandez via Storyful