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Space heater blamed for NYC fire that killed 17, including 8 children: "You see kids fighting for their life"

New York City apartment fire kills 19
New York City apartment fire kills 19, including nine children, after space heater malfunction 02:04

More than a dozen people remained hospitalized Monday after one of the country's worst residential fires in decades ripped through a New York City apartment building, killing 17 people, including eight children, authorities said.

New York Mayor Eric Adams on Monday revised the death toll from the fire to 17, two fewer than originally reported. He said the medical examiner "modified the numbers of those who lost lives" but did not immediately give a reason for the lower death count.

Officials blamed a malfunctioning space heater for the fire, which also injured dozens of residents in the Bronx on Sunday morning.

"This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city of New York," Adams told reporters at a news conference. "This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times."

The tragic incident appears to be the deadliest residential fire in the U.S. in more than 30 years. 

The fire started in a two-story unit on the second and third floors, according to the city's fire department. The flames only damaged the apartment and nearby hallways, but with the door to the apartment left open, smoke escaped and began to fill the entire 120-unit building.

"Black, black smoke. I could barely see from me to you," one of the residents told CBS News outside the building.

"It was very sad, it was very sad, it was very heartbreaking, especially when you see kids fighting for their life," said another.

Firefighters raced to rescue dozens of people who became trapped during the fire. Some of the residents were forced to smash windows for air.

"Members found victims on every floor in stairwells and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

More than 60 people were injured, according to officials. All of the children who were killed in the fire were all younger than 16, authorities said. 

About 200 firefighters responded, fighting the flames, evacuating survivors and resuscitating the injured. Many continued searching in the smoke even as their oxygen tanks emptied, the mayor said.

Some residents said they ignored the sound of smoke alarms at first because false alarms are common in their building.

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