BELMONT, the Bronx — As a massive fire ravaged a Bronx apartment building Thursday night, a woman got a call she never imagined she’d receive — her mother and baby daughter were trapped inside their burning home.
“We’re going to die in here!” screamed Maria Batiz, during her frantic final call with her daughter, Christine, who was at work as their building went up in flames.
Sources say 56-year-old Batiz was later found dead in the bathtub of their third-floor apartment, along with her 8-month-old granddaughter.
Christine Batiz, 26, recounted her last conversation with her mother on a GoFundMe page.
“She told me there was a fire in the building and she was trapped,” Christine Batiz wrote. “I never heard from her again. I lost my angel baby and my best friend; my mother. The lady who birthed and would do anything for me is gone.”
“I lost everything in a matter of minutes. One thing you know my daughter is playing with her new toys, the next hour they are gone from my life.”
Fernando Batiz confirmed that his sister, Maria Batiz, and her granddaughter, were among the dead.
“They couldn’t escape … The smoke, I guess, overcame her — everything happened so quick,” said Batiz, 54. He said his sister, a home care attendant, was a selfless person who had helped him when he was homeless.
“I don’t know what to think. I’m still in shock,” her shaken brother said Friday.
The fire broke out at the five-story Prospect Avenue apartment building when a young boy toying with the burners on his mother’s stove accidentally lit New York City’s deadliest fire in decades, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nirgo said Friday.
The flames swept up the stairwell in minutes and blocked the main route to safety.
The child’s mother heard him screaming, and was able to rush him and a 2-year-old out of the unit, but she left the door open, the fire commissioner said.
“This fire quickly spread up the stairs,” Nigro said. “The stairway acted like a chimney. It took the fire so quickly up stairs, people had very little time to react. They couldn’t get back down the stairs. Those that tried, a few of them, perished.”
The lessons learned from the deadly incident are that children cannot be left unattended, and when fleeing a fire, people should always close doors behind them, Nigro said.
At least 20 of their neighbors scrambled out via fire escapes on a bitterly cold night, but others could not.
“People had very little time to react,” Nigro said. Although firefighters arrived in just over three minutes, “bravely entered the building and did everything they could — we did save a number of residents — this loss is unprecedented.”
Twelve people died, including girls ages 1, 2 and 7 and a boy whose age was not given, officials said. Four other people were fighting for their lives.
The fire has been called the worst fire tragedy the “city has seen in at least a quarter century,” by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Because of the number of lives lost, Nigro called the fire, “historic in its magnitude.”
The investigation into the fire, including whether or not the building had working smoke detectors, continues.
NYPD tweeted out the number to call for anyone looking to contact a loved one who may have been affected by the blaze: “If you’re unable to reach someone who may have been impacted by the five-alarm fire at East 185th Street and Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, call 311 or 212-639-9675 from outside NYC.”