“Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier and a New Yorker. He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire. His heroism exemplifies the best of our city. Rest in peace,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Saturday in his condolence message to the families of the 12 victims.
It was the city’s deadliest blaze in more than 25 years. Fire officials said a child playing with a kitchen stove ignited the fire on Thursday around 7 p.m. The toddler’s screams roused his mother, who grabbed her children and escaped their first-floor apartment. In the rush to safety, she left the apartment door open and the fire quickly spread through the entire building. Many other tenants rushed out the 29-unit building to safety, some of them barefoot and lightly dressed for the frigid temperatures. The victims ranged in age from one to 63. They included a mother, her two daughters and a niece.
Mensah, 28, was in the building when the fire started. His father, Kwabena Mensah, found out from others how his son died, but he wasn’t surprised. “That’s his nature: He wants to help people out,” the father said. The private first class in the Army National Guard was back home for the first time after completing basic training. He was awaiting the start of advanced individual training to become a military police officer.