Updated 02/24/2009 10:56 PM
Two Dead, Dozens Injured In Chinatown Fire
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It took firefighters more than four hours to control a stubborn fire that ripped through a building in Chinatown early Tuesday morning – killing two people and injuring dozens more.
The fire broke out around 4 a.m. on the second floor of a building near Madison Street and Saint James Place.
The flames then spread throughout the building, causing the roof to collapse.
"We had fire on a number of floors. It's a very old building, very tight quarters inside, and we had extension very early into the fire. The fire originated on the second floor, quickly extended," said Patrick McNally of the FDNY, who said the wind and cold weather made fighting the fire all the more difficult.
Officials say a 33-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man who lived in a second story apartment died as a result of the fire.
The Fire Department says 20 others were injured, four critically. Additionally, eight firefighters of the nearly 200 brought to the scene, sustained minor injuries.
Dozens of people were forced to flee. The FDNY says three people jumped from the building to escape – all are alive.
"We saw a person on the fire escape in huge clouds of smoke with fire all around her and firemen trying to get through the fence," said one witness. "They got to her. It was amazing."
Residents say the fast-moving fire trapped their neighbors and destroyed their homes.
"I have no idea what is left and what isn't," said a building resident.
"I helped one little girl get to the roof," said another. "I was huddled with everyone though. Most of our neighbors don't speak the same language, but everyone really worked together and trying to help the elderly, trying to help the kids."
"It was pitch black," said a third. "I couldn't see anything. I was in the kitchen and I lost vision, pretty much."
Red Cross and other emergency services opened a shelter at a nearby school to tend to about 60 of the building's residents. The FDNY says there are around two-dozen apartments in the building.
There is no word as to when residents of the building can return to see what's left of their belongings.
Investigators say a faulty extension cord in one of the bedrooms on the second floor sparked the fire.