Emotionally Disturbed Woman May Have Started Fire, Police Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — At least 15 people were injured Tuesday night when a fire broke out in a Harlem public housing building.

The FDNY said the fire broke out on the 14th floor of the 21-story building at Amsterdam Avenue and 125th Street around 6:30 p.m. Residents said they heard people banging on the doors to get them out.

Police said an emotionally disturbed woman might have started the fire in her own apartment. Neighbors said the woman has done the same thing twice before.

“She must have got upset and decided to burn the apartment down,” said Tania Valez.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, Valez said this was the third time her neighbor on the 14th floor of the building at Amsterdam Avenue and 125th Street has tried to burn down her own apartment.

“She’s a good neighbor to have, but she needs to be on her meds always, and when she stops taking her medication, this is what happens and she loses it,” Valez said.

The fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Valez said the woman had just returned home after a three-week stay at the hospital for the last incident.

“This was definitely the worst one that she did, and she just came out of the hospital not even three hours ago,” Valez said.

Two civilians were injured – one seriously, while the other had minor injuries, the FDNY said. Nine police officers also suffered minor injuries, as did four emergency medical technicians, the FDNY said.

Pictures showed what was left of the woman’s apartment after the fire. Several other units had water damage.

Harlem Fire

Fourteen people were injured in a fire at a Harlem public housing building on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (Credit: Valerie Castro/CBS2)

The woman accused of starting the fire suffered burns and was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, police said.

“She just has issues and she needs help, and she’s not getting the right help that she needs,” Valez said.

Some other civilians were treated at the scene, the FDNY said. Nine to 10 police officers also suffered minor injuries, as did four emergency medical technicians, police and the FDNY said.

There was no word late Tuesday on how the woman started the fire, but neighbors say last time, she burned a pile of clothes.

Charges were pending against the woman accused of starting the blaze.

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