Scenes from a High-Risk Fire in the East Village that Injured 14

NY Times - October 04, 2018

by Michael Gold and Emily Palmer

After fighting the six-alarm blaze in Manhattan for hours, fire crews were pulled out of the building over concerns about its stability.

Ari Spitzer woke up in his fourth-floor apartment in Manhattan around 2 a.m. on Wednesday to sirens blaring and the smell of heavy smoke.

When he opened his front door, the hallway was so full of smoke he couldn’t leave. “I couldn’t even see,” he said.

He rushed to the fire escape, where the smoke was so thick he couldn’t see far enough to make his way to the ground. From there, fire crews helped him get down.

Firefighters were still on the scene as of 11 a.m., working to extinguish a six-alarm fire in a building in the East Village that began early Wednesday.

Fourteen people, 11 of them firefighters, were injured, officials said. None of the victims sustained life-threatening injuries.

After more than six hours of fighting the blaze, firefighters were pulled from inside the building over concerns that it may collapse.

“We don’t want to put our guys at risk anymore,” James E. Leonard, the chief of the New York Fire Department, said.

The fire broke out just before 2 a.m. at 188 First Avenue, a five-story building with eight apartments and a Japanese restaurant, Uogashi, on the ground floor.

The building was evacuated and some businesses were closed. Two nearby schools, P.S. 19 Asher Levy and East Side Community High School, were closed for the day.

“There was a lot of smoke, and the fact that the streets were closed, it was just difficult to bring children into the area,” Chief Leonard said.

Officials said they believe the fire began in the restaurant.

By 8 a.m., most of the fire was contained, a Fire Department spokesman said, but crews were still fighting flames in a structure behind the building that had partially collapsed.

Chief Leonard said he expected a “prolonged operation” as firefighters let the fire burn through the roof of the back building.

Mr. Spitzer said he was told it would be at least a day before he and his roommate, who was out of town, would be able to return to their apartment. Then he texted his roommate, “Our apartment was on fire. See you in the morning.”

Businesses near the site of the fire and two schools were closed as fire crews worked to control the blaze.