NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One person was killed, and 12 more were injured, when an extra-alarm fire broke out Monday evening in an apartment building in Hamilton Heights.
The fire broke out around 5:45 p.m. in the six-story building at 512 W. 136th St., near Amsterdam Avenue and close to the City College campus, fire officials told CBS 2.
The fire was later raised to a third alarm, and fire officials have now deemed the blaze suspicious.
The FDNY told CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco that one person was killed. The victim was found on an upper floor staircase landing and was so severely burned that it was not clear whether it was a man or a woman.
The victim had been trying to escape, the FDNY said.
“We don’t know what apartment the person came from other than they were found on the top floor and they were badly burned,” Nigro said.
Two other civilians were also injured, and one of them required hospitalization, fire officials said. A total of 10 firefighters were also injured.
Heavy fire was seen on the third, fourth and fifth floors. Firefighters were fighting the blaze from the roof and from the back of some apartments, Joe Biermann reported from Chopper 2. Flames were seen pouring out of a window.
The fire started on the first floor of the building and spread very quickly upstairs, officials said.
Residents such as Sandra De La Cruz were left with little time to escape. She grabbed her dog and her family.
“I’m in shock,” she said. “I’m surprised I’m here with my dog. He doesn’t have a leash. I just panicked and we just got out of the apartment.”
Residents were faced with a wall of smoke making it difficult to escape.
“I rushed to get out, and I went to the third floor to knock on my uncle’s door, tell him that it was smoke or fire coming into the building, and then when we were going to the second floor, I couldn’t pass the second floor because it was black and smoke,” De La Cruz said.
“We saw kids coming out of the fire escapes; the firemen trying to help them come down because they couldn’t come down themselves,” said witness Gillian Scott Ward.
One man told 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis he barely got out, and watched many neighbors climb out of windows and off fire escapes.
“You had the people coming out. They were throwing their dogs too, out,” he said.
Another woman, who did not want to give her name, has several relatives in the building.
“It’s unthinkable. I wouldn’t think anybody could do that,” she said. “But thank God my siblings are OK.”
It took 175 firefighters to bring the blaze under control, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
As of Monday night, the fire was under investigation and West 136th Street remained blocked. Officials said a fire of the volume seen in the incident is always deemed suspicious.
The American Red Cross of Greater New York was also at the scene late Monday, ensuring that the needs of the affected are met and setting up emergency housing. About two dozen families were displaced by the fire, the Red Cross told CBS 2.
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