NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More than 100 Bronx residents are now without a home but grateful to be alive after a fire broke out at their housing complex early Friday morning in the Soundview section of the Bronx.
When the fire broke out at 1466 Watson Avenue, the smoke could be seen for miles. But much to the residents’ surprise, the smoke detectors stayed silent.
“There was no alarm, nothing. Absolutely. No alarm, nothing,” said resident Demba Sanyang.
Residents say the only alarm they heard was the sound of their neighbors pounding on their doors to get out.
“It’s like, 6 o’clock, people are sleeping. I don’t start knocking on people’s doors, it may be worse. The alarm is supposed to wake people up, but the building is silent,” said resident Lamin Sillah.
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“Smoke alarms weren’t going off. She was only notified by tenants banging on her door that there was a fire in the apartment, in the building,” said Ivelise Lopez, whose mother Raquel lives in the building. “It was just basically neighbors, good neighbors, banging on each other’s doors letting them know there’s a fire, get out of the building. If not, God knows how worse it could’ve been.”
Now at least 20 families have no place to live.
While Raquel Lopez is lucky enough to have her daughter close by to take her in, many others don’t.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to my belongings up there, I don’t know. I’m smiling because I don’t want to cry,” said resident Walter Gilliam. “I have no idea where I’m staying right now. I don’t know where I’m going to stay.”
The FDNY says the fire was a complicated one, CBS2’s Nina Kapur reported. Because it originated in what’s called the cockloft, or the space between the roof and third floor ceiling, it spread very quickly to other connected buildings.
FDNY officials say it will be a while before residents can get inside. The third floor saw the brunt of the fire and smoke damage. Most of the windows were shattered and the ceilings caved in.
“Those fires, once it gets into the cockloft space, it spreads pretty quickly,” said FDNY Chief of Operations Thomas Richardson.
Fortunately, though the alarms did not sound, no lives were lost. Four firefighters and two residents had minor injuries. One resident remains in serious condition.