The fire erupted as the four-alarm fire on the top floor of the six-story 34th Avenue building in Jackson Heights around 1 p.m. quickly spread into the cockloft.
About 400 FDNY members responded and continue to fight the fierce blaze.
Officials say the FDNY will be on the scene overnight and for the next few days.
“When the units arrived, the apartment door was open, there was an advance fire,” said FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro. “The first units were trying to move forward, three of the limbs were burned. Fortunately, the burns were not serious, although they were taken to hospital.”
Flames could be seen through the windows and thick smoke that could be seen for miles was billowing from the roof.
“Everyone was panicking, all you see is smoke,” said resident Edwin Martinez. “When you got out of the building you couldn’t see anything. It was just all gray.”
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The Red Cross set up a square in a nearby courtyard for the hundreds of residents, many of them children, who had to scramble to escape the fire and smoke inside.
“I was scared, because everything turned black,” said Kimberly Singhi, a resident. “I grabbed my mom, grabbed my dog and the pets we have, and we just ran away.”
Firefighters spent most of the afternoon and evening fighting the blaze, with 130 units and more than 350 firefighters and EMS on the scene. They were initially on the roof but withdrew fearing a collapse.
“Intermittently we used interior streams, exterior streams,” Nigro said. “Very difficult for our members. Very painful. We are still operating here, we will be here for a while. NYPD is there, Red Cross will be there. Salvation Army. There will be many, many families that will need it. of a place. to stay tonight, then they’re set up in schools and other establishments to take care of these people. “
Fire officials said the spread of the fire was due to a door opening.
“The door was open,” Nigro said. “The occupant fled, left the door open. We have emphasized over the years how serious it is if you unfortunately have a fire in your house or apartment, how important it is to close that door. in the hallway, the units could not advance quickly. What we see here is now a 7th alarm, which perhaps could have been avoided. “
FDNY officials say the building has 150 apartments and about 90 families, including 240 residents, have been displaced as a result of the blaze.
A total of 21 people were injured, including 16 firefighters and five residents.
Two of these firefighters suffered non-life threatening burns and were taken to the Cornell Burn Center. Of the five residents, four refused medical treatment and one was taken to a nearby hospital.
The cause of the blaze is not yet known, but officials say it was unrelated to weather conditions.
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