For the Second Time in Four Days, Candles Spark Destructive Bronx House Fire

Categories: Fire

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There was another apartment fire in the Bronx early Monday morning. And for the second time in four days, candles sparked it.

The tragic details of the first fire, the one in Highbridge on Friday night, were still fresh in the public's mind: Family couldn't pay the electric bill. Used candles for light. Three children died.

In Monday's Soundview blaze, the candles were in the basement and 12 people were injured, two of them critically. Con Ed told the Associated Press that the company had not shut off any power in that building.

But, as with Friday's fire, FDNY officials noted that there was no working smoke detector in the room where this one ignited.

While the causes of the fires were similar, the results were different in the most important way: There have been no reported deaths from Monday's fire at this time, thanks in large part to a man with one arm and one leg who saved two babies from the burning building.

Fidel Morales, a 54-year-old Department of Correction employee who lost the limbs as a child in an electrical accident, carried his one-year-old son and one-month-old niece to the balcony of his second floor apartment as the flames spread through the building.

As the Daily News reported, 34-year-old Wilgem Herasme stood in the yard below.

"I said, 'Throw the babies to me. There is no time,'" Herasme told the paper.

Herasme caught the babies. Morales then jumped down himself, spraining his ankle and knee.

Among the 12 people injured, half were younger than 20, NY1 reported.

The two incidents, just days apart, stand out because candles are not a particularly common cause of house fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles are responsible for 3 percent of residential fires.

The numbers tend to rise as the holidays approach: About one-eighth of candle fires happen in December.

Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha

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Between 4 a.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Monday, there were 47 fires or other emergencies, including these two fires, that Red Cross volunteers and staff responded to. These were the only ones that made the news.  As I write, there has been yet another fatal fire in Brooklyn. 


If only 1/8 of the candle fires happen in December, then I'd say that the holidays are LESS likely to be associated with candle fires.  Used to be the opposite, before the electric light strings, of course, when real candles were put on dessecating trees in the living room.

Primary reason in winter may be poor people whose landlords won't turn on the heat, or who cannot afford a higher utility bill, clustering around a flame - maybe even in a confined space, like under the bed.  Also hear of people who try to heat their apartments by opening the oven door and turning it on, or bringing a charcoal grill inside; mostly asphixiate rather than burn.

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