What to Know
A huge fire in a Washington Heights apartment building took hours and more than 200 firefighters to get under control
FDNY officials say the fire was started by a woman making toast in the kitchen
Nearly 20 people were hurt in the fire, mostly with smoke inhalation and other minor injuries
It took more than 200 firefighters to knock out a massive fire at a six-story apartment building in Washington Heights that was started by a woman making toast in her kitchen.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro says the seven-alarm blaze at Riverside Drive and West 157th Street started just before 2 p.m., starting in a kitchen on the second floor and racing up a dumbwaiter shaft inside the nearly 100-year-old building.
Firefighters had difficulty knocking out the fire in very cold conditions and getting to flames through a hard-to-reach, wide-open cockloft, according to Nigro. Normally, crews have to cut through a roof or ceiling to fight those kinds of fires.
Resident Janae Abner said, "My dog started barking, and it wasn't a normal bark. I looked through the peephole and all I saw was black cloudy smoke in the hallways."
Abner put a towel under the doorframe to keep thick smoke out until firefighters eventually got her and her dog Coco out to safety.
"I just thank God they were there and they made it when they did, 'cause it could have been worse," she said.
There was a working smoke alarm in the apartment where the fire started, and it did activate, Nigro said.
Engels Ramirez lost everything in the fire, and his mother is among the residents hospitalized for smoke inhalation. She's doing fine, he said, but he was distraught from watching everything he owned going up in smoke.
"It's burned. It's burned," he said.
The building, which houses about 130 units, is about a dozen blocks from the site of a massive inferno that devoured a century-old apartment building in November and left nine people injured.