Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Emergency workers are working at the scene of a deadly fire in an apartment building in the Bronx on Sunday, January 9, 2022, in New York.

Emergency workers are working at the scene of a deadly fire in an apartment building in the Bronx on Sunday, January 9, 2022, in New York.
Pictures: Yuki Yawamura (AP)

A fire at an apartment in the Bronx on Sunday killed 17 people People with nine children under the age of 16. It was the deadliest fire in New York More than three decades. Preliminary reports indicate that the fire was caused by a faulty space heater – showing how upgrading energy efficiency in apartments is not just a climate issue, but an emergency trial.

Officials say they believe the heat was working in the Twin Parks West building on Jan. 9, when the fire started late in the morning, but space heaters are being used to supply extra heat to an apartment. Although the fire itself – which started in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors, only spread to the side door unit – black smoke quickly filled the building, which lacked an exit outside; The windows are broken for residents to breathe as they are covered in glass. Rescuers say they have found people who need help On each floor The 19-storey building, which contains many cardiac and respiratory arrests In addition to the deaths, more than 60 people were injured and 13 were hospitalized.

“I had no choice,” said resident Anthony Romero, 40. Told the New York Daily News Despite having asthma, he decided to stay in his 12-story apartment with his pregnant wife and two children. “There was so much smoke in the hallway, I had no way to leave my apartment from the 12th floor to the first floor and survive.”

There are some significant fire safety issues that have made the fire in Twin Park West so devastating, including the inner stairs that are stuck in the smoke and the doors are not adequately closed and allow the smoke to spread. But the cause of the fire — a resident who had to run a space heater in the cold in January, but not frozen — cannot be ignored. Residents living in public and affordable housing had to turn to space heaters and even gas stoves as a source of warmth in winter, which increases the risk of indoor air pollution, fire hazards and carbon pollution.

More than 70% of New York’s carbon emissions are related to buildings. Increasing efficiency can go a long way in reducing emissions, although potentially preventing disasters like what happened this week and helping to make people’s lives more comfortable.

Studies have shown that low-income families across the United States Spend up to four times on utilities As rich people, mostly because of the inefficient system in cheap, historically disadvantaged housing. The culprits include power-gazing appliances, old heating and cooling systems and poorly heated buildings. These figures, importantly, split along the race line; Black, Indigenous, and Latino families spend far more than their white counterparts, in part as a result of decades of unfair housing practice.

There was the Twin Park Complex Designed and built in the 1970s; Half of the country’s apartments were built before 1980, before the advent of many modern techniques to improve efficiency and insulation. Many of these buildings rely on older heating systems. Sometimes, those systems stop working completely. Residents of the sister building in Twin Parks West, Twin Parks East, The news outlet said last year There was no heat in their building for months.

Taylor Morton, director of environmental health and education at New York City-based WE ACT on Environmental Justice, said, “Early reports suggest that a faulty space heater is the cause of such a large fire. Email” New Yorkers receive adequate and efficient heat in the winter, and this fact That old infrastructure can not only affect our quality of life, but can be devastating. “

New York is slowly beginning to address the problem. The New York City Housing Authority, the nation’s largest public housing authority, has a plan for 2020. All its buildings will be electrified by 2050. Last year, Governor Kathy Hutchul made the announcement 24 million in funding For an energy efficiency pilot program to upgrade affordable housing in the city. Of the city Recently passed a ban on natural gas hookups The new buildings will guarantee that any future public housing will be all-electric. (Perhaps this tragedy will persuade the powerful owners of Twin Parks West to prioritize the problem with the administration of the new mayor, Eric Adams: the owner of the building sat on the Adams housing transition team, one of the heads of the three firms.)

There are policy proposals at the national level, starting from Green new deal for public housing From Homes for all laws. Together, they will sink trillions of dollars to tackle the backlog of repairs and to retrofit new ones to build inadequate existing housing and new affordable housing units. Such large government investments will create jobs and ensure that people have a safe, comfortable place to live. They can also help reduce utility bills (a 2020 analysis Acquiring skills will save each family hundreds of dollars annually), which can help close the gap in resources.

“We must protect our low-income communities and communities of color from outdated infrastructure with the promise of cost-effective recovery and equitable energy policies aimed at preventing such incidents from happening again.”

Updated, 1/1/21, 3:08 pm ET: This post has been updated to reflect the revised death toll of 17.

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