Fire fatalities have steadily declined in the U.S. since the late 1970s, thanks partly to improved building codes requiring safety measures such as sprinkler systems, multiple fire exits and fire-resistant construction materials. But a deadly blaze in the Bronx served as a ghastly reminder that many of the country’s big cities are packed with homes that have none of these safety features, reports the Associated Press.
The March 7 inferno claimed 10 lives when flames ignited by a space heater ripped through a century-old town house inhabited by two immigrant families from West Africa. The three-story house lacked a fire escape and had only one stairwell, giving residents no way out once those steps were blocked by flames. There were no sprinklers. The house had only two smoke detectors, neither of which had working batteries or was hard-wired to the electrical system. Yet none of those deficiencies appeared to violate the city’s building code.