A woman's "careless use" of a candle sparked Thursday night's fire inside a Manhattan high-rise building that hurt 23 people, including 17 civilians and four firefighters, one of whom suffered serious burns, the FDNY says.
The woman was wrapping Christmas presents in her third-floor apartment at 515 West 59th St. when her bathrobe caught fire from candles she had lit, fire officials said Friday.
When the woman realized her robe was on fire, she took it off and fled her apartment, but left her windows open, causing winds to drive heavy smoke into the hallways and up through the building, fire officials said.
The FDNY said late Thursday night the injury count in the fire was 24, but adjusted the number slightly to 23 by Friday morning. Of the 19 civilians who were hurt, six were in serious condition.
Fire officials say most if not all of the injuries inside the 33-story fireproof building could have been prevented had people stayed in their apartments, blocked their doors with wet towels, and opened a window if necessary.
Instead, officials say, residents tooks to hallways -- in some cases, with their children -- as smoke rapidly filled the air. A similar mistake was made by a couple in a condo high-rise on West 43rd Street nearly two years ago that cost a man his life.
The building at 515 West 59th St. is owned by Mount Sinai Hospital and contains 465 apartments.
A spokeswoman for Mount Sinai West said in a statement that "a number of occupants" in the building, which houses mostly residents and Mount Sinai hospital staff, were taken to local emergency rooms with varying degrees of injury, and that most of them have been treated and released.
"We are working closely with city agencies," the spokeswoman said.
Doctors were among some of the residents who took shelter from the dense smoke inside an apartment on the 21st floor, according to building resident named Paul. When a 7-year-old girl waiting out the smoke went into cardiac arrest, one of the residents in the apartment performed CPR on her and revived her, he told NBC 4 New York in an email.
She was handed over to firefighters, who carried her down the stairs and out of the building, he said.
There was no structural damage to the building from the fire, buildings officials said. It appears most residents returned and slept there overnight, despite the smell of smoke.
The firefighter who was seriously burned was still in a hospital burn center Friday. The other three injured firefighters have been treated and releated, officials said.