Dozens Hurt as Fire Tears Through High-Rise Apartment on Upper West Side

NY 1 - December 24, 2016

by Lori Chung

Dozens of people were hurt after a fire tore through an apartment in a Manhattan high-rise. NY1's Lori Chung filed the following report.

"At first I smelled rubber," said Vicky Barja, a resident of 515 West 59th Street.

It was not long after that other residents saw heavy smoke filling their high-rise building.

"I saw there was a smoke and then somebody calling from upstairs 'Call 911, call 911,'" another resident said.

The four-alarm blaze brought scores of firefighters to the scene to knock down the flames, and forced many out into the cold.

"We had heavy fire conditions on the third floor that basically incinerated a one-bedroom apartment, we had heavy winds blowing into the apartment," FDNY chief of department James Leonard said.

Those winds helped spread heavy smoke into the upper floors of the 33-story building. Many people suffered from smoke related injuries, including a 7-year-old girl found on the 21st floor in cardiac arrest.

"We had to carry her, carry the female in cardiac arrest but when they got out to the street they revived her," Leonard said.

Officials say the building is fireproof, so residents who stayed in their apartments were better off than those who tried to evacuate.

"I knew enough to bring this wet towel and then cover the bottom of my door with wet rags, open the window and breath through the window, because the smoke was coming so quick into my apartment," Barja said.

She is thankful she knew what to do as those injured start on their road to recovery.

Fire officials say 24 people, including four firefighters were taken to area hospitals. Six civilians were seriously hurt, while the rest of the victims had minor injuries.

Authorities say some of the victims went to the roof during the fire, something officials say residents should not do.