NY Daily News - May 20, 2012by Joe Kemp
FDNY officials say it was 'perfect accident' as building caught fire a few doors down from schoolA false alarm triggered at a Bronx school early Saturday was the first of a "bizarre" chain of events that helped firefighters pluck three children out of a burning building, officials said. The little girls -- ages 14, 9 and 5 -- were pulled out of a bedroom of the Andrews Ave. pad in University Heights soon after the firefighters burst through the front door about 5 a.m., officials said.
And fire officials said it was a perfect accident that the kids were even found.
A short time earlier, firefighters were called to an alarm at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Elementary School, a few doors down from the apartment, authorities said.
Once they arrived, they noticed several police nearby that responded to an unrelated incident of a woman who was assaulted on the same block, authorities said. The victim was later taken to St. Barnabas Hospital and expected to survive.
After firefighters determined the school building was safe, they began to clear the scene. But a team from Engine Co. 75 decided to stick around in case cops needed a hand, officials said.
And just as a firefighter parked the massive truck near W. 183rd St., a window smashed.
"As (a firefighter) is getting out of his rig, he hears glass breaking," said Battalion 19 Chief Thomas Riley. "There was heavy smoke coming from the first floor."
They called in the blaze and began looking for a water source, but the closest hydrant was dead.
The firefighters began stretching about 400 feet of hose to the next hydrant as another crew from Ladder Co. 33 raced into the building and busted down the door to the first-floor apartment.
"When they opened the door, the fire was rolling out over their heads," Riley said.
The smoke eaters crawled through the roaring flames when firefighter Brian McGowan, 35, suddenly heard screams for help.
He found the three girls crying in the bedroom. McGowan and two other firefighters -- Mark Henesy and Lt. Michael Steo -- got the girls safely out of the apartment.
They were taken to Jacobi Medical Center and are expected to make a full recovery.
The flames were extinguished about 30 minutes later, officials said.
Fire marshals were investigating the cause of the fire, which appeared to have started in the kitchen.