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The deadliest home fires in recent United States history

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At least 19 dead in horrific NYC fire

Correspondent Alexis McAdams reports from NYC where a fire broke out taking the lives of at least 19 people, a malfunctioning space heater is believed to have been the cause.

Two massive fires have devastated the United States in the first nine days of 2022, with a Philadelphia row house fire killing 12 people on Jan. 5 and a New York City apartment fire killing 17 on Sunday. 

“This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said of Sunday’s fire, which also left at least 63 people injured. 

The Philadelphia row house fire, which authorities say may have been started by a toddler who was playing with a lighter near a Christmas tree, was the deadliest to hit the city in more than a century. 

Here is a look at some of the deadliest residential fires over the last 20 years in the United States. 

Chicago apartment fire on Aug. 26, 2018

Ten children died in this Chicago apartment when a fire broke out in August 2018. 

Ten children died in this Chicago apartment when a fire broke out in August 2018. 
(Chicago Fire Department)

Ten minors, including six children under the age of 12, were killed during a sleepover when a blaze broke out on the porch of a Chicago apartment on Aug. 26, 2018. 

No adults were present when the fire broke out and there were no working smoke detectors in the home. 

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The building’s landlord was cited just three years earlier for not having a smoke detector in the unit where the fire started, according to the Chicago Tribune

Bronx apartment fire on Dec. 28, 2017

New York Fire Department ladder trucks deploy at a building fire in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S. December 28, 2017. (NYFD/Handout via REUTERS)

New York Fire Department ladder trucks deploy at a building fire in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S. December 28, 2017. (NYFD/Handout via REUTERS)

A 3-year-old playing with stove burners started this fire on the first floor of a five-story Bronx apartment building, leaving 13 people dead on Dec. 28, 2017. 

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called it “historic in its magnitude” as it was the worst fire in New York City in a quarter-century. 

Emmanuel Mensah, a private in the National Guard, saved multiple people from the burning building before succumbing to smoke inhalation. 

Memphis house fire on Sept. 12, 2016

The outside of a Memphis home where a fire killed 10 people. Metal bars were placed over most windows of the house. (Associated Press)

The outside of a Memphis home where a fire killed 10 people. Metal bars were placed over most windows of the house. (Associated Press)

A fire started in the living room of a small Memphis, Tennessee, home shortly after midnight on Sept. 12, 2016, leaving four adults and six children dead. 

A neighbor, Shondra Hampton, said that firemen pulled lifeless bodies out of the home, which had metal bars over most of the windows. 

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“I’ve never seen firemen cry, but they were bawling like babies when they brought the children out,” Hampton told The Tennessean

It was the deadliest fire in Memphis since the 1920s. 

Pennsylvania house fire on April 3, 2008

A two-story house fire in the small town of Brockway, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, left 10 family members dead on April 3, 2008. 

The fire started around 2:30 a.m. and only two family members escaped, one by jumping out of a second-story window. 

Eight of the victims were children, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bronx house fire on March 8, 2007

A space heater on an overloaded power strip sparked a fire in the basement of a Bronx three-story house on March 8, 2007. 

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Ten people, including eight children, died in the fire. They were all part of a 22-person extended family from the west African nation of Mali that lived in the house. 

Kentucky house fire on Feb. 6, 2007

Ten family members, including six children, died when a one-story wood-frame home went up in flames early in the morning of Feb. 6, 2007. 

Dwight Mason, a neighbor, said he was briefly able to get into the house through a window but had to turn back. 

“I knew there were children in the house, and you want to do something,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I kept hearing them kids hollering and screaming and stuff.”

Louisiana apartment fire on March 10, 2005

A family moved into an apartment in southern Louisiana on March 10, 2005, and their new home caught fire just hours later, leaving 11 of them dead. 

Candles that the family was using caught a mattress on fire, which got stuck in a doorway as they tried to drag it outside. 

The deceased ranged in age from 6 months to 42 years old. Six of the family members escaped. 

Delaware house fire on Jan. 3, 2001

Three generations of women were raising their families in a Delaware home that was filled with smoke during a grease fire on Jan. 3, 2001. 

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Eleven members of the family died of smoke inhalation in the home, which had two smoke detectors but no batteries. Seven of the victims were children. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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