FDNY: Deadly Prospect Ave. fire caused by child playing with stove

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BELMONT -

A Bronx apartment fire that killed at least 12 people, including four children, was started by a child who was playing with a stove, the FDNY says. 

The fire broke out Thursday around 7 p.m. inside 2363 Prospect Ave.

EXTRA VIDEO: Extended footage of scene outside Prospect Avenue fire

According to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, the fire was sparked by a 3-year-old boy who was playing with stove burners. The fire sparked inside the kitchen on the first floor of a five-story building and quickly spread.

Nigro says the boy's mother was not in the kitchen when the fire started; however, she and her two children ran out of the apartment and left their door open once they realized the fire was out of control.

During a news conference Friday, Nigro explained it was because the door was left open which allowed the fire to spread quickly through the corridor of the building, trapping and killing five people in a very short period of time. 

EXTRA VIDEO: Fire officials hold press conference about cause of Bronx apartment fire 

Seven others died at St. Barnabas Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center as a result of their injuries, officials say. At least 20 people escaped by climbing down fire escapes and FDNY rescue ladders.

Some of those who perished in the fire have been identified as family members Karen Francis, 37; Shantay Young, 19; and Kylie and Charmela Francis, ages 2 and 7. 

Grandmother Maria Batiz and her 8-month-old granddaughter also died in the blaze.

At least 175 firefighters responded to the initial call in three minutes, and the fire was extinguished hours later. 

Nigro described the fire as "historic in its magnitude" due to the high death toll.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the fire the deadliest the city has seen in 25 years.

A vigil was held Friday night for victims of the fire.

Anyone who has relatives or friends who live in the apartment and have not heard from them are asked to call 311.

Nigro reminded the public of programs designed to educate young children about the dangers of fire. 

He says it is not uncommon for children to play with fire, and that the mother of the 3-year-old boy accused of starting the fire told police the boy had a history of playing with the stove burners.

The American Red Cross is helping victims of the fire. A shelter has been set up at Crotona International High School near the apartment building where the fire took place.

City officials say they are hosting a coat and clothing collection drive for the victims at the Church of St. Martin of Tours Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located at 2239 Crotona Ave.

State Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda and the Parkchester Baptist Church are also offering food and clothing to the victims. They can call 347-270-5044 or the church directly at 718-823-8124, Sepulveda says.

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