Firefighters Face Bitter Cold in Washington Heights Blaze

Thursday, Jan 24, 2013  |  Updated 12:38 AM EDT
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Firefighters braved bitter cold temperatures to battle massive flames at a Washington Heights apartment building Wednesday.  News 4's Gus Rosendale reports.

NBC 4 New York

Firefighters braved bitter cold temperatures to battle massive flames at a Washington Heights apartment building Wednesday. News 4's Gus Rosendale reports.

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Fire Burns in Washington Heights Building

Firefighters are on the scene of a four-alarm blaze in Washington Heights. The fire began in the five-story residential building at 2440 Amsterdam Ave. at about 8:15 p.m. and has spread on the first five floors, officials said.
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Firefighters are battling a large fire in Washington Heights in the bitter cold.

The fire began on the ground floor in the five-story residential building at 2440 Amsterdam Ave., at 181st Street, at about 8:15 p.m. and spread up through all the floors, officials said.

Flames were so intense that at times they burst through windows. One man, who gave his name as John, was visiting a friend in the building next door when he said he smelled smoke -- like "someone was burning toast" -- but didn't realize the situation was becoming so serious so quickly. 

About an hour and 15 minutes after he first detected the smoke, firefighters and neighbors knocked on his friend's door telling them they had to leave. 

Firefighters were able to respond quickly because the local firehouse is located two doors down from the building. 

"We have no idea if we'll be able to get back into the building tonight or where people are going to stay. It's just like in the movies," John said.

One civilian was reportedly injured after slipping on ice resulting from the water being sprayed on the fire; another firefighter was also injured. Both were minor, officials said. 

So far the fire is not considered suspicious but officials are continuing to investigate.

Wind chills were below zero Wednesday night and it's expected to get colder Thursday. In New Jersey, firefighters also had to contend with the arctic chill while battling a large fire at a metal shop in North Arlington.

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