A wind-whipped inferno that the FDNY called "an unstoppable conflagration" blazed through a Brooklyn apartment building, killing a 64-year-old woman, injuring 20 firefighters and leaving dozens homeless, officials said Sunday.
Flames roared from the windows in the six-story Flatbush building on East 29th Street as the fire grew to five alarms and burned for more than nine hours, intensified by strong winds, authorities said.
The body of a resident, Mary Feagin, was found in the rubble on the top floor, an FDNY spokesman said.
It was like fighting a blowtorch with high winds making it "virtually impossible" to get ahead of the fire, said FDNY Deputy Chief Stephen Moro.
Officials say 20 firefighters were hurt battling the blaze, which erupted about 6:40 p.m. Saturday. None of their injuries are life-threatening. Several civilians suffered minor injuries and seven people were treated at the scene, officials said.
The firefighter union charged Sunday that recent manpower cuts hampered efforts to control the blaze; however the FDNY said it wasn't budget decisions but an open door and fierce winds that made this fire so stubborn.
"The severity of this inferno and the damage it has left is clearly the result of Mayor Bloomberg reducing the number of firefighters on engine companies," Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said in a statement. "It is clear the result would have been different if the mayor did not cut staffing on engine companies."
In response, the FDNY said a key apartment door was left open, allowing flames to spread throughout the fourth floor and then attack the fifth and sixth floor before finally going through the roof.
"Contrary to the UFA's statement, it was the open door problem -- greatly exacerbated by severe winds -- that fueled this fire into an unstoppable conflagration, despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters who battled it for more than nine hours," the FDNY said.
The cause and origin of the blaze remain under investigation. Two-man teams of firefighters carefully searched Sunday morning through the debris in case other victims were left behind.
More than 200 firefighters were called to the scene.
The building has about 70 apartments. The city said a shelter for displaced residents has been set up at a nearby school.
Firefighters used so much water to stop the blaze that nearby tree branches were left coated with ice, some broken and dangling.