Three people were hurt and about a dozen others were displaced after a fire engulfed a Harlem store Tuesday and spread to the apartments above, fire officials say.
The blaze broke out at a 99 cent store on Frederick Douglass Boulevard at West 139th Street at about 9:15 a.m., the FDNY says. In a matter of seconds, the flames crawled up the wall into the apartments above the store.
"It was very frantic, there was a lot of panic," said neighbor Naim Nejieb. "The apartment was completely filled with smoke."
At least a dozen residents were awakened by smoke and screams, including 61-year-old Milton Brown, who warned his neighbors to get out, then raced to look for his 91-year-old mother Sarah, who lives with him and just had a pacemaker installed. He said he had to carry her down a smoke-filled stairwell, and other people helped carry her.
"Smoke was all in the hallways, it was all over the place," said Brown, a Vietnam War veteran. "We couldn't see getting out."
The fire destroyed their apartment, but Brown said he's thankful for the firefighters and strangers who helped rescue him and his mother.
"I'm blessed to be here," he said with tears in his eyes.
The injuries to the three people hurt were considered minor; they were taken to a hospital.
The cause of the blaze is unknown, fire officials say.
The Red Cross says it is assisting residents displaced by the fire.