15-Year-Old Girl Identified as Victim in Hamilton Heights Apartment Building Fire: Authorities

Fire officials said an overloaded extension cord sparked the blaze

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A 15-year-old girl died in a large apartment building fire in Hamilton Heights Monday evening that was apparently sparked by an overloaded extension cord, authorities said. Brynn Gingras reports.

    A 15-year-old girl died in a large apartment building fire in Hamilton Heights Monday evening that was apparently sparked by an overloaded extension cord, authorities said.

    Authorities identified the victim as Melisa Mendez Tuesday, a day after the FDNY says she was found badly burned on a sixth-floor landing, apparently trying to escape the blaze. 

    "I would imagine she exited into the stairwell at a time when the fire was at its greatest, and it didn't take long for her to succumb to the fire," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. 

    Friends say the teen sang in her church choir, loved music and dreamed of being a doctor. 

    Ten firefighters and two neighbors sustained minor injuries in the fire on West 136th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, which reached four alarms at its height and drew 175 firefighters. 

    Chopper 4 footage from the scene showed firefighters on the roof of the building and fire escapes as flames and thick black smoke billowed out from the windows of the six-story building. 

    At one point, flames were shooting out of a window with such force that they appeared to overwhelm a firefighter before he was able to jump onto the fire escape one story below. 

    Neighbors also scrambled down fire escapes as flames flew up the stairwell. 

    "We ran, and knocked on my uncle's door -- he's on the third floor," said Sandra Delacruz, who grabbed her dog Lucky before bolting from her fourth-floor apartment. "I told him fire was coming from the building." 

    Fire officials say an overloaded extension cord sparked the blaze. It spread because the occupant of the unit where the fire started left the unit and didn't close the door, authorities said. 

    "It's scary," said neighbor Gillian Ward Scott. "Thank God it was 5:30, and not a lot of people were home." 

    Red Cross has set up a relief center for the roughly two dozen displaced families at PS 192. 

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