The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

NYC Apartment Fire:
Blaming the Victims—Again

Jan 8, 2018

Officials are saying that the fire that killed 12 people at an apartment building in the Bronx was started by a 3-year-old boy who was playing with the burners on a stove. Fire officials and the press are practically leading a witch hunt against this family. “The mother admits he has done this before. Why wasn’t she supervising him?” So goes the new rallying cry.

It is not uncommon for children to play with fire or start fires. So why don’t stove manufacturers build stoves taking this into account? There are child-proof pill bottles. They can’t make child-proof stoves? Of course they can.

The mother reported running from the bathroom to grab her child and another child and run from the burning building. Was she supposed to take her son to the bathroom with her? Or tie him up until she came back?

Officials are using this smear campaign to cover-up real problems. The 1916 building was not made of fireproof materials. A fire detector on the first floor–the floor the fire broke out on–was not working

While the fire department did arrive within three minutes, the fire hydrant was frozen. It was the coldest night of the year, with temperatures in the teens. Time was wasted trying to find a working fire hydrant. If the building had had sprinklers, the fire would have drowned in the kitchen and that would be that.

Another problem was the apartment door did not close behind the woman as she fled carrying two young toddlers! She is being blamed for that as well. “Close the door, close the door, close the door,” the fire commissioner said at a news conference. Apparently she was supposed to stop, turn around, put the kids down and close the door! She saved three lives.

All dwellings in New York City with more than three units are required to have self-closing doors. This building had 25 units. The door should have closed behind her. Doors slow fires down. They cut off oxygen that feeds the fire. Her apartment faced the stairwell. The fire spread from her apartment up the stairwell which in effect acted like a chimney.

A self-closing door alone could have made a big difference, buying people more time to escape plus they might have been able to use the stairwell of this 5-story walk-up. Instead, there were 20 people all crowded on the rickety fire escape. Some were afraid to come down on the fire escape, blocking others from using it.

There are hundreds more century-old buildings just like this one in New York City. Those 12 people died horribly and needlessly. This fire was completely preventable.