9 Hurt in East Harlem High-Rise Fire, 1 in Critical Condition: FDNY

A roaring fire broke out in a high-rise apartment building in East Harlem early Friday and injured more than a half-dozen people, firefighters say.

Nine people were injured the blaze, fire crews said. One of them is in critical condition, one suffered serious but non life-threatening injuries and seven others, including two firefighters, suffered minor injuries.

The FDNY rushed to East 112th Street just after 3 a.m. to find the high-rise up in flames, fire officials said. Seven people were screaming inside a sixth-floor apartment. 

To get into the building, one firefighter climbed through a sixth-floor window to help a trapped man, while others had to coax a mom and her four kids to wade through a smokey apartment to escape. 

"You are limited to your senses, it's blacked out," said probationary firefighter Amir Francis. "All you can do is feel on the walls and listen to what's going on." 

Firefighter Osmar Martinez was the first to find the mom and her kids: "I run into Lt. McDougall, I pass off one of the children to his arms. I turned around, grabbed another child, and told the woman to follow me." 

The fire was knocked down about an hour later, and the injured were all taken to an area hospital to be treated.

Officials believe a space heater plugged into a surge-protector strip sparked the blaze.

"What we found here was a melted power strip, it had a space heater attached to it," said FDNY Lt. Anthony Mancuso. "That's what melted and caused the overheat and the fire." 

Safety experts recommend plugging space heaters directly into wall outlets, since power strips can overheat. Apartment 6A had a smoke detector but it did not work, fire officials said. FDNY members handed out free smoke detectors at the building later Friday. 

"What the guys did was remarkable because the fire was in the living room, the bedrooms are in the back. This type of construction, there is no fire escape," FDNY Lt. Ryan McDougall said of the firefighters. "The family had no other option, they had to come out the front door." 

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