NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A fire ripped through building on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen Sunday morning, gutting the popular Empanada Mama restaurant and apartments above.

The fire broke out at the building at 763 Ninth Ave., at West 51st Street.

Stuart Bragg, assistant manager at Empanada Mama, told CBS2 he noticed smoke coming from the boiler room shortly after 8 a.m., but initially though it was steam.

But, Bragg said, “all of a sudden, smoke immediately started billowing out from the bottom of the stairwell, and then I called our store manager and I said, ‘There’s a problem.’”

Bragg said he grabbed two people who were in the building with him and hit some buzzers on the apartments. People were sleeping in the apartments above, he said.

City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-3rd) reported that the fire was raised to four alarms.

The FDNY reported via Twitter that when firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire, hydrants were covered in snow. A blizzard coming just short of a record at 26.9 inches had fallen the day before, but the NYPD and the Mayor’s office reminded the public that hydrants must be shoveled out.

Bragg said he had heard Empanada Mama was completely gutted.

The loss of the popular restaurant drew numerous mournful tweets Sunday.

There were no reports of injuries in the fire.


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