Five-Alarm Blaze Rips Through Brooklyn Building, Injuring 25 Firefighters and Three Residents

NY Daily News - February 20, 2011

by Mike Jaccarino, Joe Jackson and Joe Kemp

A wind-whipped five-alarm blaze tore through a Brooklyn apartment building Saturday, killing a woman and injuring four residents and 25 firefighters, officials said.

About 200 Bravest fought the flames that engulfed the six-floor building on E. 29th St. in Flatbush after the 6:40 p.m. call, officials said.

When the flames were finally extinguished hours later, firefighters found a woman dead on the sixth floor. Her name was not immediately released.

Tenant Shavan Agard recalled the horror of escaping the blaze with his baby girl.

"I climbed down the fire escape from the sixth floor with my 2-month-old daughter in my arms," said Agard, 34.

"I smelled smoke while I was going to give my daughter a bath," he said, adding that he opened the front door to a smoke-choked hallway before scooping up his baby, Sophia.

"All I could think about was my daughter," he said. "I grabbed her and that's it. I went out the window and carried her down."

Fire officials said the high winds - with gusts of more than 50 mph - created a blowtorch effect. When firefighters burst into the building, entering apartments, the wind rushed through and intensified the flames.

"This was bad because of the wind," said Fire Chief Edward Kilduff.

Dozens of residents scurried out of the burning building - leaving clothes, pets and valuables behind.

Carol Gay, 51, said she was watching TV when she heard the sirens as fire trucks roared down the street and people started shouting, "Fire! Fire!"

"I pulled my mother out of bed and ran down the stairs," she said. "As I was going down the stairs, the firefighters were coming up with hoses. These men are so brave."

Gay and her 82-year-old mother escaped unscathed, but left everything they owned inside the scorching building.

"Everything I have in this world is in there," she said. "It could've been worse. I have my life."

At least two firefighters were pulled from the inferno - one of them with burns to his back, neck and leg, officials said. He and three other smoke-eaters were taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Sixteen firefighters went to Kings County Hospital for minor injuries. The cause of the blaze was unknown last night and the investigation was continuing.

Owners of nearby stores helped give shoes and clothes to some of the dozens of residents seeking shelter from the cold, windy street.

"I feel sorry for them," said Malik Alizai of 99 Cent Mart. "I just told them, 'Take whatever you need.'"

With Clare Trapasso