NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A mother threw her two children to safety Thursday morning during a suspicious fire at a Queens home which firefighters said may have been firebombed.
Fire Captain Anthony Varriale told 1010 WINS it appears an accelerant was used to set fire to a stairwell of the home on the corner of Rockaway Boulevard and 144th Street in South Jamaica.
“We thought we smelled gasoline or something of that quality of flammable liquid,” Varriale said.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports
The blaze, which was contained to the stairwell, broke out in the home, which is right across the street from Engine 302 Ladder 55, around 3 a.m.
Varriale said residents of the building were in “panic mode” and seconds away from jumping out of their windows.
“Fortunately, we were able to get portable ladders up quick enough because we’re right across the street,” Varriale said. “Even before one was in place a woman started jumping onto a ladder.”
However, Sandra Gonzalez, a young mother of two, took a great risk to save her children from the flames.
Good Samaritan Shamel Lawrence, a retired New York City police officer, said he heard Gonzalez screaming and ran outside to see her dangling her 14-month-old son, Divine, out of the second story window.
Lawrence said Gonzalez told him she would rather throw her two children out of the window than let them burn.
“She was screaming that she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see anything and they were passing out,” Lawrence said. “All she cared about was her kids.”
Lawrence and another man kicked down the door to the house but the flames prevented them from making their way upstairs.
Instead, the two men went back outside, clasped their hands together and caught the two children.
Fire Captain Dan Delargy told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider the mother hung out of the window as far as she could and dropped the children about 10 feet.
“If we would’ve made one mistake the baby would’ve hit the ground and it would’ve been a whole other story,” Lawrence said. “I’m just glad that we can let these people see another day.”
Six residents, including the children, were taken to Jamaica Hospital for smoke inhalation.
Three fighters sustained minor injuries.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.