An historically deadly tragedy unfolded in New York City overnight Thursday as a swift-moving blaze ripped through a Bronx apartment building, killing at least 12 people.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that it's believed the fire was started by a child playing with stove.
Among the dead are four children, including a 1-year-old baby.
Even fire authorities appear to be having a tough time coping with what Mayor de Blasio has called the worst blaze New York has seen "in at least a quarter century."
"In a Department that’s certainly no stranger to tragedy, we’re shocked at this loss," NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said on Twitter. "12 have died, and 4 are fighting for their lives."
According to fire officials, the fire broke out on the first floor and quickly spread upstairs of a five-story apartment building not far from the Bronx Zoo.
Fire officials arrived just minutes after the call, at which point some 20 people were already out on their fire escapes.
Nigro said in a Friday morning press conference that the child who started the fire had a history of playing with the stove.
Victims died on various floors. They ranged in age from a one-year-old baby girl to a
“In the middle of the holiday seasons – a time when families are together – tonight here in the Bronx, there are families that have been torn apart,” de Blasio said.
A 2-year-old girl, 7-year-old girl, 19-year-old woman and 37-year-old woman were also identified as fatalities, NYPD said.
An unidentified adult male and unidentified male child were also killed.
Authorities said the investigation remains active and ongoing.
FDNY officials said the heroic efforts of fire fighters managed to save the lives of dozens residents.
"Because of FDNY’s quick response at least 12 people were rescued," de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, witnesses are recalling the heartbreaking sight that unfolded as they stood helpless in the numbing cold.
"All I saw was just kids in the fire escape with their property, you know what I mean? And the flames were still going as the kids were, you know, on the fire escape," witness Rafael Gonzalez told CBS New York. "What woke me up was the smoke, because I thought it was my building."
Witness Fanta Kande said she could hear screams from the building.
"It was like freezing point, so it was worse for people who wasn't ready and dressed appropriately with no shoes or any of that," she said.
When the blaze broke out around 7 p.m., temperatures in the area hovered just north of 10 degrees. With wind chill, temperatures felt closer to 1 below zero.
Mayor de Blasio offered prayers to victims and loved ones in what is sure to be a prolonged period of grief for all this tragedy has touched.
"I want to offer my prayers to all the families who have lost their loved ones this evening or who are struggling. I ask all New Yorkers to keep them in your prayers, too," de Blasio said.