Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a suspicious fire that left one person dead in Hamilton Heights. Firefighters say they found the victim badly burned in the apartment building's sixth floor stair landing. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Flames shot out the sixth floor windows of this apartment building as residents scrambled to escape.
"I'm in shock. I'm surprised. I'm here with my dog. He doesn't have a leash. I just panicked and we just got out of the apartment," said Sandra de la Cruz.
De la Cruz lives on the fourth floor of the 136th Street building. She says she smelled smoke around a quarter to six Monday night and felt the heat.
"It was hot," de la Cruz said.
She and many others left all their belongings.
"There was just mad smoke coming from the building and people started coming down the fire escape," said resident Lenise Figueroa.
"I couldn't pass the second floor because it was black with smoke so we managed the majority of people manage to get out of the building for the second floor fire escape," de la Cruz said.
At that point, they say, firefighters arrived.
"The fire met them right at the front door, the first floor, and quickly went up the stairs all the way to the sixth floor," said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
It took two hours for the city's bravest to get the blaze under control. Firefighters got some of those who couldn't self evacuate out, but in addition to the fatality, two residents suffered minor injuries.
Ten first responders also got hurt. All injuries, though, are not life-threatening.
"The biggest challenge fighting this fire was the fact that it extended so quickly in a six story multiple dwelling that was fully occupied. So the members not only had to remove all the occupants, but had to stretch five hose lines to cover the entire building and prevent the spread to other buildings," Nigro said.
There are 24 apartments—all of which are uninhabitable for now. The Red Cross is helping many families with shelter. The fire started on the first floor and the cause remains under investigation.