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Small Fire At Montefiore Hospital Forces Partial Evacuation

(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A two-alarm fire in the basement of Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx Wednesday afternoon forced hospital staff to evacuate hundreds of patients from the building.

Hospital officials say a generator fire broke out in one of the basement boiler rooms just before 2 p.m. sending smoke billowing into emergency rooms and intensive care units.

1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports

“The fire alarms went off so we knew something was wrong,” nuclear medicine technician Ben Agyei-Odame told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

“They told us to leave,” one woman said. “They said it was smoke…we got out of there.”

Hospital staff immediately began evacuating 250 patients, some of whom were in critical condition and had to be treated outside on the streets, as firefighters worked to bring the smoke and flames under control.

“I was in the operating room and we could smell a lot of smoke but our patient was under general anesthesia so we couldn’t just get up and walk out of the room,” anesthesiologist David Turk said. “We had the patient in our care, no matter what we had to be there.”

About 100 firefighters responded to the scene and brought the fire under control in an hour.

“It got a little shaky,” Lt. William McGee, with Ladder Co. 51, said.

McGee and four other off-duty firefighters from his company were just pulling up at the hospital to visit a fellow firefighter — who is a patient.

“We saw everything going south quickly, smoke coming out every vent in the building and people evacuating,” McGee said.

The men — all wearing street clothes — immediately jumped into action.

WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reports

“We’re used to it. We wound up picking up the hose, knocking out the main body of fire and then the guys came in and relieved us and did the rest of the job,” McGee said.

McGee and his crew shut off the damaged generator preventing it from exploding — a move the fire chief says likely saved lives.

Despite a burn on his arm McGee and his men are fine — and say they were just doing their jobs.

“I burned my arm a little bit but we’re OK,” McGee said. “We do it for a living and we enjoy doing it.”

All visible flames had been knocked out by 3 p.m.

1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports 10 people suffered minor injuries including a patient hooked up to a ventilator in the emergency room and a woman was struck by a car on the street.

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