NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A spark of fire turned a three-story building into a raging inferno Friday night in Brooklyn, trapping victims inside before firefighters could begin to help them.

The blaze started at a building on Covert Street in Bushwick around 9pm Friday.

The cause is still under investigation but the fire seemed to have started on the top floor.

There are now reports that the building may have been illegally subdivided.

1010 WINS’ Kathleen Maloney reports: Relatives, Neighbors Mourn Fatal Fire Victims

Two people died in the fire. Family members say 45-year-old Gregory Atkinson, so choked by smoke and flames, jumped out the window from his top-story apartment, falling to his death.

The second victim, 56-year-old Frank Edwards, was found dead on the heavily damaged top floor of the building.

Gary Atkinson, Gregory Atkinson’s brother, rushed was shell-shocked.
“It’s hard for me to believe that he’s gone,” he said.

As the blaze spread to adjacent building, neighbors could do nothing but watch it burn.

“I felt the heat all the way across the street in front of my house,” said neighbor Richard Nelson. “It was just so intense, so intense. The house just started deteriorating and breaking down on its own.”

Firefighters say the fire burned through five units unusually fast and strong, then spread to buildings on either side sparking explosions.

They haven’t ruled on an official cause yet.

Those who live in the building say it was divided into small, cheap rooms.

“I’m thinking it probably could have been an electrical fire because I used to live in the building I moved out of here a couple months ago so, I’m thinking it was an electrical fire,” said former tenant Ricky Jones.

Jones says wiring problems were well-known among tenants. 

“Iif you plug in a microwave to heat up something, it would blow the circuits,” said Jones.  

The building was occupied by mostly older men at the time of the fire. Neighbors say the victims were loved on the block.

What do you think? Let us know in our comments section below:

More From CBS New York

Download Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE