Fatal Williamsburg Fire Deemed Suspicious

NY 1 - December 29, 2009

Fire officials say they are investigating a suspicious fire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that claimed the life of one person and wounded seven others early Monday morning. The fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. at 55 Harrison Place, a three-story apartment building. The top two floors were inhabited, while the bottom floor, where officials believe the blaze started, was uninhabited.

Fire officials say the person who died, 17-year-old Sofia Olivo, was one of two people trapped by flames on the second floor.

"I'm devastated," said the victim's friend, Ashley Gonzalez. "This is horrible. I would of never expected it, nothing, she's so young, she was so young."

The other person on that floor, a 19-year-old woman, was transported to Cornell Medical Center in serious condition.

Four more residents, two 18 year olds and a 42 year old, and two firefighters suffered minor injuries, as well.

"I'm relieved, but it's still sad because now their parents are over there, you know, and she was so young," said Rick Nieves, whose uncle escaped the fire. "It's crazy how things happen."

Two people who had relatives inside the burning home told NY1 that several residents had to jump out of windows to escape.

"He jumped through the window from the second floor because the building was on fire," said Marilyn Ramos, whose son escaped the fire. "A lot of flames, they couldn't come to hallway, the building was burning inside of hallway so nobody could come."

"My brother came around the corner to tell me that the building was on fire," said Marilyn Colon, whose brother also escaped the fire. "He jumped out the window, and he was bleeding all through here, his leg; he just passed out in my house."

The deputy fire chief said the fire is suspicious due to the volume of flames when crews first arrived.

"Just the amount of fire. Whenever you get that amount of fire as a company's pulling up, that's not the normal course of events, so we're going to investigate that to see what the cause was," said FDNY Deputy Chief Paul Mannix.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said an accelerant was also found on the scene.