The fire broke out as a four-alarm explosion on the top floor of the six-story building on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights around 1 p.m. and quickly spread to the chicken coop.
Approximately 400 FDNY members responded and continue to fight the fierce fire.
Authorities say the FDNY will be on site overnight and for the next several days.
“When the units arrived, the door to the apartment was open, there was an advanced fire,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “The first units to enter were trying to advance, three of the members were burned. Fortunately, the burns were not serious, although they have been transferred to the hospital ”.
Flames could be seen coming out of the windows and dense smoke that could be seen for miles billowed from the ceiling.
“Everybody was panicking, all you see is smoke,” said resident Edwin Martinez. “When you left the building, you couldn’t see anything. It was all gray.”
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The Red Cross set up a place in a nearby courtyard for the hundreds of residents, many of them children, who had to fight to escape the fire and smoke inside.
“I was scared, because everything went black,” said resident Kimberly Singhi. “I grabbed my mom, I grabbed my dog and the pets we have, and we ran away.”
Firefighters have spent most of the afternoon and night fighting the blaze, with 130 units and more than 350 firefighters and EMS on the scene. They were initially on the roof, but withdrew for fear of collapse.
“Intermittently we have used inward currents, outward currents,” Nigro said. “Very difficult for our members. Very exhausting. We are still operating here, we will be here for some time. The NYPD is here, the Red Cross will be here. Salvation Army. There will be many, many families who will need a place to stay tonight, for what is installed in schools and other facilities to take care of these people. “
Firefighters said the fire spread due to a door being open.
“The door was open,” Nigro said. “The occupant fled, left the door open. We have emphasized over the years the seriousness that if you unfortunately have a fire in your house or apartment, how important it is to close that door. The fire in the hallway, the units do not they were able to fast forward. What we see here now is a seventh alarm, it could possibly have been prevented. “
FDNY officials say the building has 150 apartments and approximately 90 families, including 240 residents, have been displaced due to the fire.
In total, 21 people were injured, including 16 firefighters and five residents.
Two of those firefighters suffered non-life threatening burns and were taken to the Cornell Burn Center. Of the five residents, four refused medical care and one was transferred to a nearby hospital.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, but authorities say it was not related to the weather.
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