NYCHA worker claimed broken alarm was working before deadly blaze

DOI report found systemic problems with safety inspections and reporting

Butler Houses in the Bronx (Credit: GKC Industries)
Butler Houses in the Bronx (Credit: GKC Industries)

A New York City Housing Authority worker claimed a smoke alarm at Butler Houses in the Bronx was working just hours before a fatal fire, according to a Department of Investigation report released Tuesday.

The fire at the Butler Houses development in April killed two toddler sisters. Their mother was eventually charged with criminally negligent homicide and acting in a manner injurious to a child. She left the children unattended with burning incense on the third floor of the 21-story Building On Webster Avenue.

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The DOI report revealed the two smoke alarms in the apartment were broken, but NYCHA maintenance worker Rene Rivera had reported one as working, the New York Post reported. Neighbors said they had not heard any alarms during the blaze, which killed the children and injured several others.

The investigation also found that Rivera had provided inaccurate information on other maintenance reports. A Housing Authority spokesperson told the newspaper that Rivera, along with eight others mentioned in the report, has been subject to disciplinary action and has since retired. [NYP]Miriam Hall