NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — At least 11 firefighters and two children were injured after a fire ripped through two multi-family homes in the Bronx.
More than 250 firefighters responded to the blaze that broke out early Wednesday morning at a home on Commonwealth Avenue in Parkchester.
“We woke up and the house was on fire,” said resident Michael Carrion. “It just jumped and it just vacuumed and exploded. It was like a backdraft all the way up the little alleyway.”
The fire escalated to a fifth alarm as the flames quickly spread to a second home. Fire officials said the oppressive heat made it more difficult for crews to fight the flames.
“The fifth alarm was transmitted for relief. The firefighters here, every unit was operating a long time,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Ronald Werner. “We can’t expect them to take all this hose up when they’re in a very, very hot and humid condition with that gear on.”
Everyone made it out of the building, but four firefighters suffered minor injuries. Two children were treated for smoke inhalation. The Red Cross said 10 adults and 15 children were displaced.
Carrion said he’s grateful his family got out alive.
“We easily could have died tonight, all of us,” he said. “We lost most everything we own, but I’ve got what’s most precious — my kids. My wife and my kids.”
Meantime, the head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association said another delay in the 911 system hurt the first responders’ ability to fight the five-alarm fire.
The fire union claims it took more than eight minutes for the 911 call to be dispatched to firefighters, and that was costly.
Union president Steve Cassidy said two homes were destroyed.
“That second building wasn’t on fire. It became engulfed in flames because the first building got so out of control,” Cassidy told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.
But the city contends the union’s computer printout is misleading. It maintains the response came in less than five minutes and there was no delay.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg took issue with Cassidy’s charge.
“He’s a smart guy and he should be ashamed of himself for trying to create something that isn’t true,” said the mayor.
The union has had issues with the 911 protocol since it was implemented in 2009.
“The bottom line is that New York needs a 911 system that is not plagued with problems and not causing greater delays that result in fires growing larger, more toxic and dangerous or medical victims having significantly longer waits for assistance. After throwing away a dispatch system that was proven and efficient for the needs of the FDNY, the administration brought UCT on-line in 2009 and it has been plagued with problems ever since,” UFA spokesperson Tom Butler said in a statement Wednesday evening.
The fire marshal determined the cause of the blaze was an accidental electrical fire from a home entertainment system.
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