Firefighters Injured While Battling Six-Alarm Blaze in East Village

NY Post - October 04, 2018

by Ben Feuerherd, Sydney Denmark, Yaron Steinbuch and Natalie Musumeci

A fire broke out inside an East Village mixed-use building early Wednesday, injuring 14 people, including a dozen firefighters, officials said.

The six-alarm blaze apparently erupted in the back of a Japanese restaurant on the first floor of the five-story building at 188 First Ave. around 1:48 a.m. and quickly spread up to the apartments above, according to the FDNY.

Twelve firefighters were injured — two seriously — along with two civilians, authorities said.

All of the wounded suffered non-life-threatening injuries, officials said. They were taken to area hospitals.

More than 200 smoke-eaters from 50 units responded to the blaze, finally bringing it under control around 12:20 p.m.

“Unfortunately, a business is lost, eight residences lost — but … it could have been worse,” said FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard on the scene. “Firefighters did a tremendous job today.”

The 30-by-90-foot building between East 11th and East 12th streets, which includes

the restaurant where it’s believed the blaze started on the ground floor and apartments above it, is in danger of collapse in the rear, Leonard said.

The fire-ravaged building was evacuated as well as numerous other buildings in the area, officials said.

Neighboring schools, including the Girls Prep Lower East Side Middle Charter School on East 12th Street, shut down for the day to prevent students from being exposed to heavy smoke.

The cause of the blaze is being investigated by the fire marshal.

Fourth-floor resident Ari Spitzer, 22, said he woke up shortly after 2 a.m. to the “smell of smoke.”

“I heard sirens blaring and I knew something was very wrong,” said Spitzer, a New York University business student. “I opened my front door and it was all smoke in the hallway so I knew that was not an option.”

Spitzer said he then climbed out onto his fire escape and got the attention of firefighters who assisted him to the street.

Sam Perez, 46, who lives next door, said he was watching TV when he noticed the flames.

“The fire was coming up (from a vent) like a propane fire,” he said. “Almost like a rocket exhaust. Shooting up 10 to 15 feet.”

Reena Mohamed, owner of the Permacut Beauty Salon at 190 First Ave., said that in 2010 she owned a store on 14th Street that closed because of a fire.

“I can’t believe I have to deal with this again. It’s following me,” said Mohamed, whose business sustained smoke damage and broken windows Wednesday.

Another neighbor who lives on the corner of the block remembered a nearby blaze that killed an elderly man and injured three other people in March.

“After the other fire that happened on East Seventh Street, I think people are feeling scared,” said Valeria B., 40, who works for the United Nations.

That fire, near Avenue C, claimed the life of 71-year-old Barry Allen.

“In the East Village, infrastructure is old, and I think there are gas problems,” she said.