2 Dead, At Least 10 Displaced In Massive Fire In Williamsburg

CBS 2 - December 29, 2015

by CBS News

CBSNewYork 12/29/15 NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two people are dead and at least 10 others have been displaced in a massive overnight fire in Brooklyn.

The five-alarm blaze broke out around 1:30 a.m. Monday in a three-story building at Richardson and Lorimer streets. Video from the scene showed large flames pouring out of the windows.

Theresa Vibberts was dazed as she stood just feet from her charred home after a lengthy talk with arson investigators. The 31-year-old was stunned by the loss of her neighbors, realizing how close she came to possibly losing her own life.

“With a sound machine and earplugs, it took a lot to wake me up and my first thought was intruder and then through the eye mask I saw the flames billowing into my bedroom,” she told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

“All I heard was the shattering glass the flame breaking the glass and then the smoke and then the screams,” Vibberts said.

Theresa escaped with her neighbor wearing only a T-shirt.

Some residents described hearing a large bang just before the building became engulfed.

“I just heard a massive explosion,” one woman said. “It sounded like a bomb went off or something — massive flames coming out of the building and then the fire trucks.”

Resident Steven Kilpatrick and his wife ran out using wet towels on their heads to protect themselves from falling debris, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

“We knew that running down the alley we weren’t going to make it if we didn’t cover, so we put the towels over our heads and ran,” he said. “Another minute or two we would have been in serious trouble.”

Fire officials said it took 200 firefighters more than three hours to get the blaze under control.

One person was found dead in a second floor bedroom. Firefighters used flashlights to search through the unstable debris and later recovered a second body.

“Very sad and very sad for the people who lost their lives,” said Kilpatrick.

The fire also destroyed a tenement that connected to the building.

“This is a very old part of Brooklyn and previously they built buildings, smaller buildings, and then when the building became more populated, they built a newer building in front of it — probably 100, 125 years ago,” FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said. “So we had the main building that you see and there is a second apartment building behind the first apartment building in that rear yard.”

Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Robert Strong said the building is basically “a giant box of wood.”

“This building is a frame building and they are very conducive to rapid fire spread,” he told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

One firefighter was also hurt.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.