In the last days of 2017, in an apartment in the Bronx, a three-year-old boy played with the knobs on a stove. Somehow, the fire jumped from the stovetop. Maybe it caught a towel, or a shirt, or a stuffed bear. However it happened, the flames quickly consumed the kitchen.
The boy screamed. His mother came running. She grabbed the boy, and his two-year-old sibling, and ran. Behind her, she left the apartment door open. From the doorway, the fire sucked into the stairwell of the apartment building and up the stairs like a chimney.
Maria Batiz died in the fire, as did her eight-month-old granddaughter. Karen Stewart-Francis, age 37, and her husband, Holt Francis, died. Their daughters, two-year-old Kylie Francis and seven-year-old Charmela Francis, also died. So did their 19-year-old cousin, Shantay Young. Emmanuel Mensah, a new soldier home on leave, helped four of his neighbors out of the building before being overcome by smoke himself. Other victims included three adult men, a 17-year-old girl, and a 12-year-old boy.
On the radio, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the fire, “seems like a horrible, tragic accident.”