TREMONT, The Bronx (WABC) — The victims of the tragic deadly fire in the Bronx will be remembered with a prayer vigil at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the scene.

Windows were broken on almost every floor of the Bronx high rise after the deadly fire tore through the building.

The smoke extended to every floor of the building on 333 East 181st Street in the Tremont section. There were residents who needed help on every single floor.

The fire was 5-alarm, but because of the massive response, so many of the firefighters were not needed to battle the flames, but to rescue everyone they could.

Unfortunately, some residents say that the smoke alarms routinely went off in the building, so people ignored them most of the time.

One person said he heard it but by the time he opened the door the hallway had filled with smoke.

People returned to the scene of the fire on East 181st Street in the Bronx on Sunday night to come to grips with what happened.

120 unit building does not have fire escapes so residents only way out was through the stairwells. They quickly filled with smoke and became death traps.

People had to decide whether to keep their doors closed and wait for firefighters or try and brave the smoke.

“It was pitch black, you couldn’t see anything. Basically, there was no guidance, you didn’t know where you were going, where you were going to end up, what happened. It was very bad, it was traumatizing,” a resident said.

“When I went to go open the door I had to shut it back, it was too late to go knock on somebody’s door, it was too late, the smoke was already in the hallway of the seventh floor,” another resident said.

RELATED | NYC’s four deadliest fires since 1990 have all been in the Bronx

Aesha McKenzie made it out of a ninth-floor apartment through the black smoke. She couldn’t see, but she could hear the panic of family members looking for their loved ones.

“It’s too much. Oh lord, it’s too much,” she said.

Residents who have been displaced by Sunday’s fire can text 181STFIRE to 692692 for resources.

Dozens of residents had to be carried out on stretchers, overcome by the smoke, some in cardiac arrest.
“But it was a lot of smoke so we had to stop at the sixth floor and we were able to get into a neighbor’s home. We stayed there until the firefighters came and they were able to guide us out. Traumatizing,” said a resident named Fatima.

Residents who walked out say they could not have done it without the firefighters.

“My teeth broke because I could not see where I’m going. So where put the garbage down, that’s the place, I opened, I thought that’s the door, so when I went, I got hit, I fell back,” said Stephant Beuvsnu.

Julia Fowler was on the ninth floor with her 9-year-old son, and had to make a life or death decision – try to escape through the suffocating smoke in the stairwell or wait until the firefighters arrived.

“I knew the best thing to do was stay,” Fowler said.

However, from her window, she could see the horror unfolding below.

“A lot of people were coming out on stretchers – real sad situation,” she added.

One seventh-floor resident grabbed her cat, ‘Fancy,’ and made a harrowing journey through a smoke-filled stairwell.

“Dark. Dark and grim, so all we had was the fireman’s flashlights, and my son had his flashlight from his phone,” she said, “slippery, had to really take your time.”

Residents were able to get food and shelter in the school next to the building, figure out what to do next, and try to account for everyone as they await word that it is safe to go into their smoke-damaged homes.

RELATED | Fire safety tips and links

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