Watch CBS News

Tenants impacted by Fordham Manor fire say building's back door was locked and initially prevented escape

Bronx families displaced after raging apartment building fire
Bronx families displaced after raging apartment building fire 02:26

NEW YORK -- Dozens of families were forced out of their Fordham Manor building on Tuesday night due to a fast-moving fire.

Some told CBS2's Natalie Duddridge they had problems finding somewhere to stay the night. They were allowed back in Wednesday afternoon to get some of their belongings.

Officials said the fire started around 9 p.m. on the second floor.

"When we went through the hallway, it was extremely black, and when we went downstairs, everybody was running down the stairs to evacuate," tenant Edgar Vazquez said.

Once the residents got out of the building, many had nowhere to go. Some slept overnight on buses, but added that was nothing compared to being trapped inside.

"We couldn't get out. We were stuck in the building. The windows were breaking. Nobody was able to get out because the glass was falling," resident Amy Herrera said.

Herrera said she was terrified when she couldn't see through the smoke that engulfed her hallway in her apartment building at 2490 Davidson Ave. When she finally got her family downstairs, she says the back door was locked.

"We were trying to open the door to get out in the back of the building. I was so scared, but at the same time I was trying to be brave and to help everybody along with my kid and other people's kids," Herrera said.

Residents showed CBS2 where they say the door was bolted from the outside.

One man said more than 50 people had piled up at the door trying to escape, so he and another man kicked it down.

"All the tenants pushing and pushing, we broke that door," Hector Reyes said. "That's not supposed to have a lock. It's supposed to be open. Whoever is inside is supposed to be able to open it."

Watch Natalie Duddridge's report

Bronx apartment building residents say dozens were trapped in fire 03:04

The FDNY had to rescue a few people.

"We did have three people trapped ... we found them on the upper floor, removed them via the interior stairs to the roof," FDNY Deputy Chief David Simms said.

Some suffered smoke inhalation.

"I ended up going to the hospital, all the smoke and all that," Tomas Bautista said.

Meanwhile, Rhonda Anderson said she was trapped up on the top floor as the fire spread.

"I went in the hallway, smoke hit my face. I had to run back in my apartment because there was no visibility," Anderson said.

Ten people were hurt, including seven that were hospitalized, and 100 were displaced. Some of the injured tenants said they were put in shelters or hotels. Others said they were left with no options.

Two dozen adults and kids said they had to sleep on a city bus parked on Fordham Road overnight.

"Look at the kids. There's more than 20 other people," a person said.

Herrera said she stayed awake so her 3-year-old daughter could sleep.

"I'm tired. We're all tired. We're hungry. We're tired. We're sleepy. We're scared," she said.

Scared because they don't know where they'll live. Herrera showed CBS2 her apartment and her neighbor's, where she said the fire started.

Residents said no one from their building has checked on them to see if they're OK.

"Even the landlord from the building, he should've sent us people from the office to see how my tenants are. We are here like animals," one man said.

As CBS2 was recording, the building's owner showed up. Duddridge brought him to the back door and asked why it was locked.

"They told us they had to break down this door. They knocked this off to get outside," Duddridge said.

"No. But anyway, it's not locked," the owner said.

"You don't believe their claims?" Duddridge asked.

"No, it's not," he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Fire Marshals Office confirmed the fire started on the second floor and deemed it accidental, caused by an overloaded power strip.

There was still no word from the Department of Buildings on that locked back door or any violations.

Some families were able to settle in at emergency shelters provided by the Red Cross on Wednesday night, but it was a long process getting there.

As CBS2's Alecia Reid reports, the disconnect between the Red Cross and the city happened when the building wasn't yet deemed uninhabitable, so families weren't offered emergency shelter, but they weren't told they could head back inside, either.

There was a small silver lining after all the chaos:  a tenant's rescue cat, who went missing during the blaze, was spotted and rescued once again.

"It's a joy to see my little cat," the cat's owner said.

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development will now be issuing a full vacate order due to fire damage on the second, third and fourth floors.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.