Police Find Cause and Origin of Deadly Fire

YONKERS – On Wednesday, March 8th, shortly before 1 AM, Yonkers First Responders including Fire, Police, and EMS responded to reports of a residential building fire at 671 Bronx River Road, a seven-story 95-unit housing cooperative. Upon arrival members of the Yonkers Fire and Police Department immediately began rescue, firefighting, traffic and crowd control operations. Residents were evacuated, and approximately 65 persons were sheltered in the Scotti Community Center north of the fire scene with the assistance of the Office of Emergency Management and other City agencies. Fire Departments from other jurisdictions assisted with mutual aid to combat the general alarm fire which was brought under control hours later. Dozens of firefighters and several residents suffered non-life-threatening injuries; sadly, a 67-year-old male resident of the 4th floor succumbed to injuries caused by the fire. Arson investigators initiated an investigation.

Investigation yielded that the fire started in a 1st floor apartment. Investigators have determined that the likely cause and origin was an electric heating lamp used to cultivate six marijuana plants that a resident was growing for personal adult-use. Evidence recovered at scene and statements from the resident lead investigators to believe that the lamp detached from its hanging support and broke, sparked on the floor starting the fire. Upon discovering the fire, the resident proceeded to raise the alarm and alert his neighbors.

Mayor Mike Spano stated, “We continue to keep the victims of this senseless fire in our prayers, especially for the fire’s sole fatality. I am proud of Yonkers first responders and city employees for their swift and courageous actions to minimize additional severe injuries or possible deaths. The cause of this tragedy only highlights the need for greater guidelines and regulations when it comes to legalized marijuana production so to avoid incidents like this in the future – so much more has to be done.”

Commissioner Chris Sapienza stated, “The tragedy of this incident is compounded by how avoidable it was. We have seen before how dangerous these high-powered devices can be, and without regulations or guidelines to protect the public, people are unnecessarily being placed at risk – marijuana laws need to be fixed, be it cultivation or smoke shops; our communities demand it. The YPD extends our deepest sympathies to the family of the victim and remains committed to supporting the displaced residents.”

The incident remains under investigation and is being reviewed by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. The New York State Office of Cannabis Management has yet to issue regulations governing home cultivation of cannabis, as such adult-use home cultivation of cannabis plants is currently not allowed.

The deceased victim is identified as Michael Damiano; the City of Yonkers and Yonkers Police and Fire Departments offered their sincere condolences to his family and friends.

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