Eight city police officers were among at least 15 people injured after a fire broke out inside a residential high-rise in Queens late-Friday morning.
The FDNY said the fire at 88-08 Shore Front Parkway in Far Rockaway started around 11:30 a.m. on the 11th floor of a 13-story building.
"The smoke was so thick, the fire department was already up there, and they pushed us back in the elevator," resident Helen Fanning said. "I pleaded with them to please let me get my dog out and they said there was no way to go and do that."
One person, who lived on the 12th floor, was said to have been critical condition. 12 people suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Officials said the officers were treated for smoke inhalation and three firefighters suffered minor burns. At least one person was taken out on a stretcher.
Fire officials said the strong winds forced firefighters to change tactics. Firefighters entered the burning apartment from the adjacent balconies, rather than through the front door, which might have created a wind tunnel effect, sending flames into the hallway.
"Attack the fire with the wind to our back rather than trying to go head-to-head with the wind," said Edward Baggot, the fire department's Queens borough commander.
In a building across the street, evacuated residents took refuge, including Fanning, who was reunited with her dog.
State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, who lives in the building, said hoarding might have been a factor.
She said the apartment where the fire began was filled with clutter that might have been discovered had the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) conducted annual inspections, as she said it is supposed to do.
"We had a lot of problems in this building," the Queens lawmaker said. "I have officially written letters to HPD regarding the lack of apartment inspections that happen in this building for over five years."
An HPD spokeswoman acknowledged problems in the building. But the department had no immediate response to the state assemblywoman's complaint. Fire marshals are investigating the cause of the blaze.