Bed bug-infested mattress set on fire by NYCHA cleaner

by nobugsonme on October 28, 2010 · 15 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in public housing, bed bugs in the workplace, fire, new york city

Don’t try this at home!

The Daily News reported yesterday that Miriam Ortiz, a cleaner who works in the New York City Housing Authority’s Manhattanville houses has been charged with arson, after setting fire to a bed bug infested mattress.

This happened on the 10th floor of a 20-story building.

The Daily News noted that

She found the mattress in a partially-enclosed hallway on the 10th floor of a 20-story building on W. 126th St., used a lighter to ignite it, and fled.

“The fire … could have ended in tragedy but for the quick response of firefighters,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, whose agency investigated.

Ortiz could have easily called an exterminator and workmen to dispose of the bed, a source said.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Not sure about this comment in the Daily News story, however:

Her bizarre action was rooted in her “fear of bedbugs and laziness,” a source said.

Laziness?

Since the alternative was to call the person who orders pest control treatment and a pair of workers to dispose of the mattress, I am not sure Ortiz saved much time or energy by putting her lighter to the mattress.

So I’d go with the “fear of bed bugs” explanation. Perhaps panic played a role as well.

It would be interesting to know if Ortiz had had training at work about bed bugs and what to do if they are found.

While many people are probably tempted to set things on fire and walk away, this is obviously dangerous, unnecessary, and a very bad idea.

Gawker also had something to say about this one.

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1 Ci Lecto October 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm

…or, Ms. Ortiz, a woman working alone, might have perceived that “the people responsible”, would dismiss her with “you figure it out yourself”. Perhaps, she would be written up if the corridor was not cleared. Perhaps, this had happened to her in the past when she sought support in the workplace. I feel for the people of this building, but also for Ms. Ortiz.

2 nobugsonme October 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Very astute comments, Cilecto.

You’re right — the reaction may be related to perceived pressures in the workplace.

3 cynyc October 29, 2010 at 2:23 am

Like the flight attendant who grabbed a beer and slid out the airplane shoot?

Except that starting a fire in a residential building is, well, arson.

4 cynyc October 29, 2010 at 2:32 am

But then, let us not jerk our knees so readily.

NYDN: She found the mattress in a partially-enclosed hallway on the 10th floor of a 20-story building on W. 126th St., used a lighter to ignite it, and fled.

As the popular press is, it is conceivable that she used a lighter to burn the bugs before she would pick up and remove the mattress when suddenly the mattress ignited causing her to run for help.

Oh well. I have better to do than follow this story but it was seductive headline.

5 Winston O. Buggy October 29, 2010 at 8:04 am

NYCHA discovers Thermal Remediation.

On another note please do not aggrandize or give support to those who commit crimes which have the capacity to harm or kill others, such as endangering an aircraft or arson.

6 Harry Case October 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm

This just demonstrates the psychological impact this pest has on people. They often become desperate and do irrational things to try ridding themselves of these pests.

7 nobugsonme October 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I did not say it was OKAY to start fires at work (nor did Cilecto).

Reacting in a dangerous and illegal way to pressures in the workplace (or fears of bed bugs, or anything else) is NOT a good thing. It’s wrong.

Recognizing those fears and pressures may exist does not endorse the behavior.

8 nobugsonme October 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi Winston,

Love the Thermal joke.

I don’t see anyone supporting this act. Please see my reply to cynyc above.

9 cynyc October 29, 2010 at 5:32 pm

NBOM said: “I did not say it was OKAY to start fires at work (nor did Cilecto).

Reacting in a dangerous and illegal way to pressures in the workplace (or fears of bed bugs, or anything else) is NOT a good thing. It’s wrong.”

I did not think either of you thought it was right.

10 cynyc October 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Odd. I posted earlier but it didn’t make it. I never thought anybody her was “supporting” her behavior as it was reported.

11 nobugsonme October 30, 2010 at 3:05 am

When you hit reply directly under another post, it threads the comments. Your reply is above, in blue, even though it was posted later than some comments which follow.

Click here to see it at the top of the screen.

Sorry I misunderstood your comment.

12 Winston O. Buggy October 31, 2010 at 7:50 am

I obviously as another misunderstood the verbiage of some comments as empathy for the NYCHA worker. MY BAD, apologies to you, it had been another long bed bug week.

13 STOP THE MADNESS November 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm

ALSO IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SHE WAS AFRAID THAT THE MATTRESS WOULD BE USED AGAIN, AND RATHER THAN RISK THAT SHE BURNED IT..BAD MOVE BUT GREAT IDEA

14 nobugsonme November 2, 2010 at 12:14 pm

STOP THE MADNESS,

I can’t get my head around the fact that the woman set fire to something on the 10th floor of a high-rise.

Whether this would have been a great idea if it had been done outside and far away from any other property or people is also not clear to me. I am pretty sure it’s not, but if anyone is planning something similar, please call your fire department and ask their opinion first.

15 nobugsonme November 2, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Hi Winston,

No worries!

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