Firefighters remained at the scene on Wednesday, and investigators said much of the damage could have been avoided.
The fire broke out around 1pm Tuesday on the sixth floor of the 133-unit building on 89th Street and 34th Avenue. Nearly two dozen people were injured, the building was gutted.
Martin Barrera said she grew up there with his mother.
“Twenty-three years in an apartment, you settle down. There’s something in there that belongs to you, and it’s called your home, ”he told CBS2. “For them, this is all they have. It’s not a number, either, you know, I could go somewhere. That’s all they have. “
“We are all reeling from this. Children have no clothes, we are completely empty, we have nothing, ”said Andrew Sokolof Diaz, founder of the Tenants Association.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but officials say it started inside a sixth-floor apartment. Officials said there was a 10-minute delay in calling 911 after residents smelled the smoke.
“People smell smoke, they tell someone other than us, ‘I think I smell smoke.’ You smell smoke, call the fire department, ”said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
– FDNY (@FDNY) April 7, 2021
Investigators also believe residents leave the door open when they run to safety, letting the fire spread into the hallway and then into the cockpit.
Please, if you have a fire in your home, in your apartment and you have to leave, close the door and keep that fire under control. Our first units met in the hall on high fire and couldn’t push their goods as much as they tried and the three members were burned when trying, ”said Nigro.
About 240 residents have been displaced – most of them are low-income, working-class, migrant workers.
Community supporters tried to help residents return to the building on Wednesday to search for their materials. Others worked to start food and fundraisers.
“It’s hard to contextualize, because when you say you’ve lost everything, that’s it. You lose clothes, you lose food, you lose documents, ”said community organizer Daniel Puerto.
The Red Cross is providing temporary support, bringing Sokolf Diaz and his family into the hotel room until Sunday. After that, he, his wife, and baby will have nowhere to go.
“We were genuinely afraid that we would be forgotten in the mix, and in the midst of an even worse pandemic. We really need support, ”he said.
The fire department has not had a chance to enter inside the building to investigate, but officials do not believe the fire is suspicious.
Meanwhile, the community supporters have started GoFundMe site to assist displaced residents.
CBS2’s Christina Fan and John Dias contributed to this report.