NEW YORK CITY (WPIX) – One person died and several were hospitalized after a fire broke out in a Manhattan high-rise building Thursday morning, according to police.
Dramatic eyewitness video of two people climbing out of a window and down a utility pipe for five floors shows how it could have been an even greater tragedy.
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) said a call came in just after 7 a.m. for a two-alarm fire on the fourth floor of a 14-story New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartment building on Avenue D, between East 8th and East 9th streets in the East Village.
Christian Cortes lives in a building directly across the way and described an intense, dangerous sight.
“I woke up from my bed and said, ‘What is that smell?'” Cortes recalled, referring to the smoke that was wafting into his apartment from across a narrow service road between his building and the one with the fire.
He heard screams, woke his family, and told them to look out the window.
They saw a young woman and man in one of the bedrooms as the flames got more intense.
Cortes’s brother, Justin Malpica, grabbed his cellphone and started recording. Cortes described what the two young people did next.
“They were looking, figuring out what to do,” he said, adding that he and dozens of other people watching started shouting at the pair.
People called out to them to climb down a yellow utility pole that extends from the basement to the roof of the building. The woman grabbed it as the young man stood in the window to escape the flames.
“It was her brother,” Cortes continued. “Her brother tried to come down. She grabbed her brother to climb with her, and the fire started coming closer out the window. That’s when they started going down slowly, slowly.”
Below, there were first responders and good Samaritans to help them.
Fire officials said multiple electric bicycles were found in the apartment; however, the cause of the fire remained under investigation Thursday morning.
Police removed some e-bikes from the scene, and some electric scooters burned up indoors, according to the FDNY.
“Knowing that might have been the cause, I’m going to be more careful with my scooter,” said Malpica, who recorded the video of the escape. “Try to charge it when I’m up, and definitely disconnect it when I’m sleeping.”
Nearly 200 firefighters from 30 units responded to battle the blaze, which was officially under control at 8:18 a.m., the FDNY said.
One victim was pronounced dead at the scene, according to authorities. Their identity was not immediately released.
At least seven other people were taken to local hospitals, one with life-threatening injuries, two with serious but non-life-threatening injuries and four patients with minor injuries, according to the FDNY.
Video from the Citizen App showed large flames and heavy smoke coming out of multiple windows of at least one apartment.
It was the third fatal fire in less than 30 hours in the city and the second in an NYCHA public housing complex. Neighbors who live in apartments adjacent to the one that burned here said they’re saddened by what happened but grateful that it didn’t spread.
For its part, NYCHA released a brief statement concerning its two recent fatal fires, confirming investigations are ongoing.