NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The person killed in a three-alarm fire in a Hamilton Heights apartment building was 15-year-old Melisa Mendez, neighbors told CBS 2 on Tuesday.
The fire broke out around 5:45 p.m. Monday in the six-story building at 512 West 136th Street near Amsterdam Avenue.
She was found in the sixth-floor stairwell, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported. The FDNY said she had tried to escape the blaze.
“She was a really good girl,” neighbor Ray Candelairo told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer. “She used to go to church always with her mom. She was really nice.”
“She had a beautiful voice and sings in church,” said Marlene Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s mother lives in the building, and found it difficult to escape the fire herself.
“She had to climb out through the fourth floor and through the fire escape, and she had my neice and my littlest,” Rodriguez said.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the teen’s death serves as a reminder to everyone on what not to do if the fire is not in your apartment, Diamond reported.
“If it’s a safe environment call 911, tell us where you are and we will certainly come and get you out,” Nigro said.
The fire began in an overloaded power strip under some furniture on the first floor of the building, Nigro said.
“The reason it spread and the reason this young lady lost her life was that the occupant of the apartment on the first floor left the apartment and did not close the door behind them,” Nigro said.
He said because the door was left open, the fire was able to spread quickly into the hall and upstairs, Gainer reported.
“Had that door been closed the outcome would’ve been very different,” Nigro said.
The fire commissioner added that smoke detectors were working.
Two other civilians were also injured, and one of them required hospitalization, fire officials said. A total of 10 firefighters were also injured.
The American Red Cross of Greater New York is helping 10 families who were displaced by the fire.
Residents returned to the badly damaged building on Tuesday to salvage what they could.
Fire officials were also at the building passing out smoke detectors and other information on what to do in case of a fire.
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