NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Firefighters are battling a large blaze in Hempstead Village. It started in an oven and spread into the apartments above, according to police.

The fire was reported just after 6 p.m. at 590 Fulton Ave.

Residents told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that for many of them, the only escape was down a fire ladder.

“It was crazy, taking them out of windows,” said Steven Bonilla.

Chief George Sandas, a spokesman for the Hempstead Fire Department explained the difficulty that responders faced in dealing with the blaze.

“The thing that hampered us was that it auto exposed where it comes out a window, second floor goes to third floor, went to the fourth floor, so at one time we had four floors of actual fire,” he said.

Nearby streets have been closed and more than twenty people have been taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

no serious injuries have been reported, but more than seventy people have been left homeless by the blaze.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at Hempstead High School.

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