NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An extra-alarm fire in a Midtown high-rise left a resident dead and two firefighters injured this Christmas Day.
As CBS2’s Reena Roy reported, investigators said the fire was suspicious.
The fire broke out in in a building at West 56th Street near Broadway.
Investigators say it started at around 7:30 a.m. on the 35th floor.
“We were scared out of our minds,” one resident said. “We were woken up by the banging. The Fire Department took sledgehammers to bang down our door.”
A 76-year-old man was found dead in his apartment. He was identified as John Doktor.
“That’s very terrible, especially during Christmas,” said resident Bryant Shih. “I feel sorry for that guy.”
Two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation.
“Just five minutes after waking up, I see there’s smoke coming in from the air conditioner, so I was like ‘What’s going on there?'” said resident Hao Tong. “Five minutes later, there’s serious smoke coming out.”
The fire quickly reached two alarms, with the wind causing it to spread rapidly. Some 170 firefighters responded to the building with a difficult task: Elevator issues only took them to the 25th floor. They had to walk up the next 10 floors with their hoses and equipment in hand, CBS2’s Roy reported.
The Fire Department told CBS2 the elevators in the building were not operating at the time of the fire.
“When you have a wind-driven fire like that, it creates a much more dangerous and difficult operation for our members to get into the hallway, because of the heat and fire conditions they’re facing,” said FDNY Assistant Chief Joe Wonzica.
Neighbors from all 36 stories rushed out as fast as they could, with smoke filling several apartments. They never expected to wake up to such chaos on Christmas day.
“It looked like a major thing. I said ‘My God, they’ve got 40-50 firemen, policemen,” said resident Bernie Dorfman. “Very scary, actually… You never know. You never know.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but they have deemed it suspicious.
Separately, a fire broke out in a home at 114th Street and 95th Avenue in Queens. The building contained three apartments and five tenants. Two people were hospitalized.
An extra-alarm fire also broke out at 144 W. 19th St. at Seventh Avenue in Chelsea Monday afternoon. Two people suffered minor injuries in the fire, which was raised to three alarms.