Marijuana Grow Lamp Sparked Deadly Yonkers Fire That Hurt 35 Firefighters: Officials

People were seen on fire escapes in their pajamas, yelling for help; some were rescued off balconies and from windows at the apartment building on Bronx River Road earlier this week

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An electric heating lamp used to grow marijuana is to blame for the four-alarm fire that devoured a huge Yonkers apartment building earlier this week, killing one person and leaving more than 40 hurt, including dozens of firefighters, officials said Friday.

The flames broke out at a 6-story apartment building on Bronx River Road in the Westchester County city around 1 a.m. Wednesday. The blaze quickly intensified, consuming the entire 95-unit structure and displacing hundreds of people.

An investigation determined the fire started on the first floor, officials said Friday -- and they believe the likely origin was an electric heating lamp used to cultivate six pot plants that a resident was growing for personal use, they said.

Yonkers officials said statements from that resident, as well as evidence from the scene, lead investigators to believe the lamp somehow detached from its hanging support and broke, sparking on the floor and starting the fire. Once the resident noticed the fire, officials say he proceeded to raise the alarm and alert his neighbors.

A total of 35 firefighters and six civilians were hurt in the blaze, according to the Yonkers fire chief. One of the injured first responders was taken to a hospital after being hit in the face with flying debris as the roof collapsed. All 41 who were hurt, including the civilians, are expected to be OK. The man who died has not been identified.

It also wasn't known how many apartments were fully destroyed. Investigators say the building is not fire-resistant. Heavy flames were shooting from the sixth floor, where most of the rescues were said to have taken place.

At least one person has died in a massive fire in Yonkers. Tracie Strahan reports.

Firefighters initially had to take a defensive approach due to the tough fire conditions and the wind, which made it difficult to battle flames on the elevated side of the building, officials said. They also had to work across a parking deck, which couldn't hold engines.

Firefighters doggedly battled the stubborn flames through the overnight hours and past sunrise, encountering hotspots each time they made headway.

Anywhere from 200 to 300 people are displaced, officials said, and it took more than six hours to get the fire under control. Residents were being told to go to the community center north of the scene, where the Red Cross is assisting.

People were seen on fire escapes in their pajamas, yelling for help. Some were rescued off balconies and from windows. Nearly a dozen people were rescued in all -- and three other towns brought more than 100 personnel to help.

"I opened the front door and I couldn’t even get it opened all the way. Because I was hit with all this black smoke so I closed the door. I was like ok I have to go out the fire escape," said Crystal Walthall. "I was in the fire escape with another family and their children so we were all trying to navigate how to get down the fire escape and get down safely."

Bronx River Road between Midland Avenue and Mile Square was closed through much of the day.

The investigation is ongoing.

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