NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A fast-moving fire killed a 79-year-old woman Friday in Brooklyn.
Three other people, a man and two women, were listed in critical condition.
Family members identified the woman killed as Betty Roberts.
“She’s a very nice lady, I’ve know her for decades,” said friend Cynthia Edwards. “She’s always been part of the community.”
The FDNY was called to a four-story building on Buffalo Avenue near Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights shortly before 6 a.m.
Officials believe the three-alarm fire broke out in a deli on the ground floor while it was closed and then spread to apartments on the upper floors.
Watch: FDNY Briefing On Friday’s Fatal Fire In Crown Heights
“When I woke up this morning, I saw a big flash of fire,” witness Okeen Meikle told CBS2’s Reena Roy.
“I wake up and use the bathroom and then I hear some noise — boom, boom, boom — I said, something’s wrong,” neighbor Nancy Petion said.
All four victims were found on the second floor and suffered respiratory and cardiac injuries, said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Anthony De Vita.
“I saw them taking the lady out from the fire escape, and then they put her down on the floor, then she started bleeding from the head,” Meikle said. “She was unresponsive, like her body was just limp.”
Two other civilians and three firefighters suffered minor injuries, said De Vita.
“I saw them bringing them out the building on the stretcher, burned on his body,” Meikle added. “It was shocking, never-wracking.”
Approximately 170 firefighters responded to the scene.
“Banging on the door, tell us to get down,” said resident Precious Hawkins. “I was frightened, very frightened.”
More than 40 people were forced to evacuate the 28-unit building.
“How’s tomorrow going to be? What’s left in the apartment? If it’s water damage or smoke damage, as well as where are we going to stay?” resident Philip Taylor said. “I have to accept what it is, nothing I can do, it’s already done… just have to plan to make tomorrow a better day with a smile.”
The fire marshal’s office said the building did not have any working smoke detectors.
Deli owner Abdo Aldilam told Roy he’s been in business for about 40 years and has no idea how this happened.
“I’m angry I lost my business,” he said. “I don’t know what to say.”
The official cause of the fire is under investigation.