NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A family of five – including an unconscious child – is lucky to be alive after a serious fire broke out in their apartment in the Bronx Saturday morning.
The fire broke out at around 10:15 a.m. in a Co-op City apartment on the fifth floor of 900 Baychester Avenue, a 24 story building.
Web Extra: Firefighters Describe Pitch-Black Rescue
“Units arrived in approximately three minutes, proceeded to the fifth floor and found a very heavy smoke condition,” said FDNY Assistant Chief Joe Woznica. “While searching for the location of the fire, they came across an adult male who was unconscious suffering from smoke inhalation. He happened to be right outside the apartment door.”
Woznica said fire was coming out the door from the kitchen straight at firefighters. When they entered the apartment, firefighters found a child who wasn’t breathing locked in the bathroom.
“Due to the efforts of EMS from the time they received the child and the hospital emergency room staff, the child was revived,” Woznica said. “He was in bad shape but they did an outstanding job, the firefighters, in bringing him down, giving him mouth-to-mouth, EMS, when they got him down here and started treating him, and then in the emergency room when they did more extensive medical care for him.”
Authorities say the boy was rushed to a nearby hospital in serious but stable condition. He was breathing, but remained unconscious.
“If it wasn’t for the actions of the members here of Engine 66/Ladder 61 and the EMS crews that were with us we could’ve lost a whole family today,” said Deputy Chief William McCormack. “The guys did a great job in getting into the apartment that had a heavy fire condition and pulling five people out of that apartment.”
Firefighters described charging up the stairs to get to the apartment only to be greeted by thick smoke.
Web Extra: Fire Official On Coop City Blaze
“The hallway was completely pitch black dark, lights out conditions, couldn’t see anything,”said FDNY Capt. Theodore Conroy. Knowing the fire was in apt. 5G, Conroy retreated to the fourth floor so he could figure out where the G line apartments were so they could approach on the fifth floor despite not being able to see where they were going.
“We crawled down to the end of the hallway. As I was crawling down, I heard someone gasping for air,” Conroy said. He grabbed the man, who was unable to speak, from in front of the apartment and dragged him into the stairwell.
“We went into the apartment, the fire was right behind the door,” Conroy said.
Visibility in the apartment was no better than in the hallway.
“We could not see anything. It was completely lights out conditions,” Conroy said.
A dresser in one of the apartment’s hallways added to the confusion by creating an artificial barrier the firefighters had to climb over in the dark.
Conroy and his team were able to figure out a rough outline of the apartment and were forced to feel their way around as they tried to make their way through. They came upon a woman and one of her children in one of the bedrooms, and an unconscious child in the bathroom.
The woman told Conroy there was another child still in the apartment.
“We can’t see. So we’re feeling around. We’re not really… we can’t see anything. We’re, like, blind. But we’re feeling to try to find this child,” Conroy said.
Their search was successful and they pulled all of them safely from the apartment.
Firefighter Joseph Aviles broke open the bathroom door and searched in the darkness until he found an unconscious child next to the bathtub.
“As I’m searching, I come upon something that feels like a body. That’s when I realized it was the child,” said Aviles. He grabbed the boy and rushed him downstairs to safety and started performing CPR. “Thank God this kid pulled through.”
The children and the unconscious adult were taken to Jacobi Hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. Two of the children and one of the adults are in serious condition.
One thing that helped save lives were the closed doors, Conroy said. The father had closed the door to the apartment and the doors to the bedrooms were also closed, preventing the fire from spreading.
“Always sleep with your bedroom doors closed,” Conroy said. “It can be the time that makes the difference.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.