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Fire safety bills will prevent another fatal blaze, Bronx officials say

Legislation would mandate safety knobs around stoves for apartments with young children.

Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., center, holds

Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., center, holds a sample safety knob that his proposed legislation would mandate for apartments with children who are 10 and younger in front of the site of the Prospect Avenue fire in Belmont on February 15, 2018. He is joined by Councilmen Ritchie Torres, left, and Chaim Deutsch. Photo Credit: Rajvi Desai

A package of fire safety legislation, introduced at City Council Thursday, will prevent another fatal tragedy like the December Bronx fire that killed 13, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.

On Dec. 28, a fatal fire was sparked by a 3-year-old child playing with a stove. The flames had quickly spread throughout the Belmont building at 2363 Prospect Ave. after the child’s mother did not close the apartment door behind her, causing multiple fatalities, injuries and displacement, city officials have said.

“The fault lies not with the child. It lies with the city of New York for failing to require the safety mechanisms, and that’s something we want to change,” Councilman Ritchie Torres said, standing next to now-extinguished candles left behind by mourners at the site of the fire.

The package of three bills, sponsored by Torres and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, would require building owners to install a safety knob around stoves in apartments with children 10 years or younger; mandate landlords to post notices in buildings instructing tenants to close apartment doors during a fire; and make it mandatory for the FDNY to implement a fire safety curriculum in all public schools, in partnership with the Department of Education.

Holding up a sample safety knob, Diaz said that the Belmont fire could have been preventable had better safety measures been in place.

“We believe that this mechanism could have prevented the child from playing with the stove,” he said. “It could only be made available to apartments with young kids, so landlords don’t have to worry about buying it for everyone. Even if they are concerned with the price tag, we should not put a price tag on lives.”

Family members of those who died in the fire saw the legislation as an opportunity to bring forth change in the city’s fire safety guidelines.

Kadian Blake, 32, lost five of her family members in the blaze, and barely escaped herself.

“Being displaced and losing so much in a vulnerable time when I’m pregnant, when I know it could have been preventable, it makes it even harder,” she said.

The legislation will save others from suffering through what she and her family went through, Blake said, while offering her “whole-hearted” support for the package of bills.

“If this can save one life, then we think their lives were not in vain,” she said.

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