Toaster Caused 7-Alarm Fire that Injured 17 in Manhattan Building

WABC - January 09, 2018

by Eyewitness News

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- 17 people were hurt and dozens displaced in a seven-alarm fire that tore through a building in upper Manhattan Monday afternoon.

The flames broke out on the second floor of the six-story residential building at 775 Riverside Drive, near West 156th Street, in Washington Heights. The fire reached the roof, sending plumes of dark smoke billowing into the sky.

The FDNY reports that all the victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and that no one is critical. Eight of the injured were civilians and nine were first responders.

More than 200 firefighters were working to get the blaze under control.

According to investigators, the preliminary cause of the fire was accidental and it was electrical, caused by a toaster.

Officials say a tenant was making toast when the appliance suddenly burst into flames that quickly spread throughout the kitchen and up a dumbwaiter to the upper floors and the cockloft.

"It's an open shaft that runs through the building and once fire got into that shaft way it quickly traveled into the cockloft space," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

A smoke alarm was present and operational.

"My mother, my sister and my niece live in this building. That was my first reaction, if they were safe," said tenant Sean Polite. He then rushed to his family's apartment building which by then was surrounded by firefighters.

Many residents though were unaware of the fire until they arrived home from work. "I turned the corner and I see people from the building, 'who called you?'. I said no one called me, I'm finding out right now, I'm like, Oh my God," said one resident.

A staging area has been set up for victims and their family members affected by the fire in Our Lady of Esperanza Church located at 624 West 156th Street.

Authorities advised those nearby to close windows and avoid smoke. Drivers were told to expect delays in the area.

The Red Cross said it is uncertain when the displaced residents will be able to return home.