NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A woman is dead and her husband, grandchild and mother are in critical condition following a fire at a three-story apartment building in the Bronx.
The fire broke out on the second floor of the building on Swinton Avenue just before 4 a.m. Friday.
“There was a whole bunch of smoke coming out of the house,” neighbor Derek Perry told CSB 2′s Kathryn Brown.
“It was dark, the house was pitch black,” another neighbor told 1010 WINS Steve Sandberg.
It took dozens of firefighters about 30 minutes to put out the flames.
“The main problem was that the fire was pretty much inside the front door so the main effort in searching the building had to come after the hose lines were moving into the building so there was a little bit of a delay in that regard,” said Deputy Fire Chief Don Levy.
Ramon Velez Jr. is in critical condition. His wife Enriqueta was pronounced dead at Jacobi Hospital, officials said. Police said she was found on the third floor of the home.
The couple’s 5-year-old grandchild and Enriqueta’s 75-year-old mother are both in critical condition, family members said. Their names have not yet been released.
Velez Jr. is the son of former Bronx city councilman Ramon Velez, Sr., who passed away two decades ago. He served only one term in the mid-70s, but spent years working tirelessly for the underprivileged in the South Bronx.
Friends and relatives said Velez Jr. lived on Swinton Avenue for years and that he carried on his father’s legacy of helping those who needed it most.
“Good family man, good family altogether,” said friend William Velez. “Good neighbors.”
Neighbors expressed shock at Enriqueta’s death on Friday afternoon.
“I’m talking about it but I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I won’t be seeing her anymore,” Mildred Velez told CBS 2′s Andrea Grymes.
A stuffed animal and clothing were visible among the charred debris on Friday afternoon while family members declined to speak to the press, one neighbor offered her prayers.
“I pray for the family and I’m missing my neighbor, my dear neighbor,” Mildred Velez said.
The Acacia Network, the Bronx based chain of healthcare providers where Ramon Velez Jr works offered their condolences as well.
Investigators spent hours picking piece by piece through the charred rubble. Fire officials believe the flames started just inside the front door, though it’s still unclear how the fire began.
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