A 3-year-old boy's screams alerted his mother that a fire had erupted in their first-floor apartment Thursday night.
Private Mensah, a decorated soldier who had been awarded a medal for marksmanship and was planning to join the military police, got that family to safety, then pulled out four more people, his uncle said, before returning to the building.
The officials said the mother fled the burning apartment with the boy, leaving the apartment door open. A mother and three children were killed when a fire tore through their Brooklyn home on December 18. "It took the fire so quickly upstairs that people had very little time to react".
A soldier who was home for the holidays died in the fatal Bronx fire on Thursday after he rushed in and out of the apartment building helping to save lives..
"When he came here he just said, 'Dad, I want to join the Army, '" he recalled.
Sakyi ran back through her apartment to the fire escape, still naked in the frigid night air. "I'm still in shock", he said.
"Close the door, close the door, close the door", New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
"From what we know right now, there was not a problem with the building", de Blasio said. Excluding the September 11 attacks, it was the worst fire in the city since 87 people were killed at a social club fire in the Bronx in 1990.
In 2007, 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building.
The building had more than 20 apartments with six open violations, however, including one for a defective smoke detector in an apartment in the building's first floor, according to records of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. From there, the fire spread throughout the five-story building, authorities said.
"We get 75 to 100 referrals per year of children who are fascinated with fire, playing with fire", he said.
"Close the door, close the door, close the door", Commissioner Nigro said urged residents in the event that another fire like this happens.
They included Karen Francis, 37, her 2-year-old daughter Kylie, and her 7-year-old daughter Charmela. Also identified as deceased were Maria Batiz, 58, and 19-year-old Shantay Young.
The blaze broke out on Thursday evening in a 25-apartment building near the Bronx Zoo, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the USA financial capital.
The father lives next door to the now non-existent building.
Investigators remained at the scene Friday afternoon, where fire trucks lined the street and pedestrian access was blocked.
Following the blaze, the fire department set up stands offering fire prevention information in the city.
"That's his nature", said 62-year-old Kwabena Mensah. "It just kept going next and up - it escalated".