Six family members, including four young children, were killed in a fire Wednesday morning that tore through a NYCHA apartment in Harlem, officials said.
The fire is likely to have started on a stove inside the six-room apartment on the fifth floor of the Frederick Samuel Houses on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 142nd Street, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. Investigators believe the fire was an accident.
Andrea Pollidore, 45, her stepson Mac Abdularaph, 33, and four of her children — Nakyra Pollidore, 11, Andre Pollidore, 8, Brook-Lynn Pollidore, 6, and Elijah Pollidore, 3, — were pronounced dead at the scene, a police source said.
“Hearing that four children were lost in a single family is just extraordinarily painful,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “This is a gut-wrenching moment for all of us.”
During a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening, Pollidore’s daughter said she was devastated by her loss.
“It’s just unbelievable, it’s unbearable, it’s indescribable,” Raven Reyes, 27, said.
The flames met firefighters at the door when they arrived, minutes after receiving a call at about 1:40 a.m., Nigro said. More than 100 firefighters had responded to the scene, and the fire was under control at 3:20 a.m., an FDNY spokesman said.
“Firefighters pushed in rapidly, but were unable to save the members of this family, who were found in two bedrooms,” Nigro said.
The fire quickly spread from the kitchen, preventing the family from getting to the front door or the window with the fire escape, which is on the side of the apartment opposite from the bedrooms, Nigro said.
Neighbors of the family consoled each other Wednesday morning outside the building, where debris was scattered on the block.
“The kids were good kids, happy kids, very rambunctious,” said Pamela Johnson, 54, who has lived in the building for more than 20 years.
Another neighbor, who wanted to be identified only as Jess, described the children as “nice and respectful.”
“They liked to play. They were always out and about,” she said, adding that the older sister “would always be with her little brothers. She was a big sister watching over her brothers. She was sweet.”
Both residents said they were alerted to the fire by other neighbors knocking on their doors.
“If my neighbor never knocked, we would have never knew,” Johnson, who lives on the fourth floor, said. “Everybody was outside when I came downstairs. It’s horrible.”
“The alarm for the building never went off so no one knew there was a fire. Thank god everybody knows everyone in this building,” Jess, 33, said.
A battery-operated smoke alarm was installed in the apartment in June 2017 and tested in January, Kathryn Garcia, the interim chair of NYCHA, said at the news conference with de Blasio. Whether it went off was being investigated, the mayor said.
The FDNY tested smoke detectors for other apartments in the building on Wednesday, and all were in working order, a fire official said.
The building was constructed in 1910 and renovated in 1994, Garcia said.