NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD says everyone is accounted for after a massive inferno ripped through the top floors of an Upper Manhattan apartment building.

The fire started just after 3 p.m. Friday afternoon and took nearly 18 hours to get under control. With several flareups overnight, authorities said the building still poses serious risk for neighbors.

READ: Fire Consumes Hamilton Heights Apartment Building

As flames engulfed the building on West 144th Street through the night and into Saturday morning, frantic tenants rushed to escape safely.

“They started screaming all over the place, ‘It’s a fire! It’s a fire!’ so I just took my family out, that’s it,” tenant Carlos Ramirez said. 

The fire quickly reached six alarms, prompting authorities to close the surrounding blocks for several hours. As smoke traveled as far as 10 blocks away, the smell engulfed the neighborhood.

“I didn’t know what to think,” tenant Minerva Read said. “I was just, like, making sure first that my family was okay, making sure my neighbors were okay.”

“The entire 114 going to the east side was just black. You couldn’t see who was in front of you,” said neighbor Julio Concepcion. “It’s devastating. I’ve never seen a fire move so rapidly and destroy a roof so quickly.”

The massive fire left 40 families displaced, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.  

Many found shelter across the street as they watched their homes burn beyond recognition.

“A lot of tenants there have been for over 20 years, and just to see everything go up in flames, it’s heartbreaking,” Read said.

Soraida Pena was just thankful her family escaped safely.

“I’m very grateful and thankful, I thank god,” she said.

As tenants returned to the building Saturday, they faced a grim reality.

“Devastating. Our home is gone,” one woman said.

“I’m very sad, very sad,” another added.

The harsh conditions made things even more difficult for the firefighters, seven of whom were hurt.

“It couldn’t have been in worse position for the wind, where it drove it throughout the top floor and drove us off the floor,” FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said.

An NYPD officer and a tenant were also injured. All the injuries are believed to be minor.

In addition to the families that are now homeless, the downstairs business owners will also have to figure out how to move forward.


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