Cherish, and Safeguard Safety, for You and Others

The tragic Bronx fire last Sunday morning, Jan. 9, leaves the city with a weeping heart once again.

So horrific was the blaze that when word of it reached the Vatican, Pope Francis was moved to send a spiritual message to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, grieving for the victims.

Like last September, when a historic monsoon had torrents of water pouring into basement apartments in Queens and Brooklyn, which killed 13 souls, the Bronx tragedy at the 120-unit building at 333 East 181st St. is forcing us to look at our lives and examine how we, as Catholics, can look out for our fellow man.

The safety of others should be our guiding principle as it says in Philippians 2:4: ”Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

It should be paramount that fire safety be priority one for anyone living in a high rise because it can also save the lives of others.

On January 3 of this year, an apartment fire struck a 12-story building in Rockaway Park, Queens. The only injuries were minor ones sustained in the affected apartment.

Other tenants seemingly knew the protocol to stay in their apartments since the structure is considered a fireproof building just like the Bronx apartment house. That type of building is designed to keep a fire contained to the apartment it breaks out in and not spread, provided the front door is closed.

Many of the residents in the Bronx building who were injured or died had attempted to leave the building while acrid smoke filled hallways and stairwells. The door to the apartment on fire was left open, maybe due to a malfunction.

Many of the affected residents were newer immigrants from Gambia, Africa, and may not have been aware of the protocols for the building they were residing in.

Preparing and educating yourself (and educating your children and other loved ones) can help you and your family, and also your neighbors, in case of an emergency.

The Fire Department of New York explains that part of the city fire code is that building owners are required to send to tenants the “Fire Emergency Preparedness Guide” for the building. This pamphlet tells tenants how to react to a fire somewhere else in the building. If you have not received it, you should reach out to your landlord.

The FDNY also has many life-saving tips on its website and should be reviewed so you can act responsibly when facing a home fire.

These measures include checking the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, never using your stove or oven to heat your home, and being diligent when using space heaters, which was the cause of the Bronx fire.

As the Gospel of Mark tells us: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). So it is up to all of us to practice our faith with the community to keep all of us safe.