Some quick-thinking sanitation workers helped get people out of harm's way as flames tore through a row of townhouses on Staten Island Friday. NY1's Priya Desai filed the following report.
Sanitation workers August Cocuzza and Jay Visone were on their daily route in Charleston Friday when the smell of smoke permeated the air around 7:30 a.m.
"I happen to look over at one of the houses, and I saw all the smoke coming up," Cocuzza said. "So I called Jay, I says, 'I think there's a house on fire,' and he came over and we ran around the block, and when we ran around the block, we saw the house engulfed in flames."
The sanitation workers rushed over to find a three-alarm fire quickly spreading through some townhouses on Pitney Avenue.
"I couldn't believe it, how thick the smoke was," Visone said. "It was overwhelming."
That didn't stop the pair from running door to door to spread word of the fast-moving fire.
"When we got there, we started knocking on doors and ringing doorbells, telling people to get out because there was a house on fire," Cocuzza said.
The duo's quick thinking got many to safety.
"It seemed like within five minutes, it just spread from one house to the other," Visone said.
By the time firefighters arrived, two of the seven townhouses were on fire. The only injuries reported were minor ones to 12 firefighters and a civilian.
Folks in the area said the fire could be seen for blocks.
"I popped out the window right there and just saw smoke," said one person. "He woke me up to tell me, and I saw smoke pouring out."
Once the fire was out, homeowners were left to assess the damage. Neighbors watched as families packed up what they could.
"Sad. Sad," said one person. "A lot of displaced families right now."
At least two families need emergency shelter, and the American Red Cross is helping them.