When a fire broke out in a New York high-rise, investigators tried to figure out why the safety doors did not close, allowing dense smoke to climb into the structure. In the city's worst fire in over three decades, 17 people were killed, eight of them were children.

On Sunday, a faulty electric space heater triggered a fire in the 19-story Bronx skyscraper, according to fire officials. The flames barely burnt a small area of the building, but smoke rushed in through the flat's open door, turning the stairwells into dark, ash-choked death traps. The steps were the only route out of a tower that was too tall for fire escapes.

New York Mayor calls tragedy "unspeakable"

The apartment's entrance door and a door on the 15th floor should have been self-closing and prevented the spread of smoke, according to Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, but the doors remained fully open. It was unclear if the doors had malfunctioned mechanically or had been pushed open on purpose.

According to fire authorities, the thick smoke prevented some individuals from fleeing and rendered others unconscious as they attempted to evacuate. Every floor had victims, several of whom were in cardiac and respiratory arrest. Even when their air supply ran out, firefighters pulled weak youngsters out and gave them oxygen, continuing to make rescues.

Closed doors are critical for controlling fire and smoke, according to Glenn Corbett, a fire science professor at John Jay College in New York City, as per AP News. White-suited cleanup employees cleaned trash from the high-rise Bronx apartment building where stifling smoke from an unintentional fire killed 17 people, including eight children, the day before.

The death toll had been set at 19 by authorities. However, Mayor Eric Adams updated the statistics during a press conference Monday, calling the catastrophe at the Twin Parks North West complex a "developing problem."

Hundreds of people were still hospitalized after the country's worst apartment fire in nearly 40 years. Thirteen people were critically injured, and Nigro cautioned that the death toll might still climb.

Children as young as four years old were among the fatalities, according to City Council Member Oswald Feliz. Flags will be flown at half-staff until sundown Wednesday, according to Adams, who called the fire one of the "worst fires in recent times."as per USA Today.

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Communities rally to help the fire victims

As more donations arrived on Monday, volunteers at the Gambian Youth Organization headquarters, which is just a few blocks from the apartment building where a weekend fire killed 17 people, sorted through piles of clothes, shoes, food, and drinks to be delivered to shelters for those displaced by the disaster.

According to New York Mayor Eric Adams, many of the inhabitants of the 19-story Twin Parks North West building that caught fire were immigrants from Gambia. Neighbors congregated at Masjid Ar Rahmah, a mosque near Twin Parks North West, on Monday as well. Haji Dukuray, who came to the United States to study in 1988 from the predominantly Muslim Gambia, remembers his niece, her husband, and the couple's three children, all of whom died in the fire.

Dawda Fadera, the Gambian ambassador to the United States, said he went from Washington, DC, to New York on Monday to learn more about the fire and to convey official condolences from the country's president. Adama Bah, 33, a pro-immigration reform activist who volunteered at the Gambian Youth Organization, characterized the local Bronx community as "extremely varied," with individuals from West Africa and other African nations as well as a sizable Latino population.

The Gambian Youth Organization has been active in the neighborhood since 2002, providing services such as a weekly food bank. Additional displaced families were able to find shelter through family and friends, as well as community help, according to the Red Cross, which offered emergency accommodation to 22 families, comprising 56 adults and 25 children. As per Reuters via MSN.

Related Article: More Than a Dozen Including 9 Children Are Dead in New York's Worst Fire in 30 Years Caused by Malfunctioning Electric Space Heater