Update (April 4 at 12:41 p.m.): While the fire remains under investigation by FDNY Fire Marshals, it has not been deemed suspicious. Officials have further stated that smoke detectors were present and operational, and that the apartment’s occupants closed the door upon evacuating. Several more civilians could have been injured, officials said, had the residents not done so.
Original Post: A furious fire engulfed a building right across the street from a school in Sunset Park Wednesday, displacing almost 100 residents and resulting in at least 23 injuries.
The blaze broke out around 5 p.m. in a sixth floor cockloft of a building on Seventh Avenue and 44th Street, according to fire officials. Initially, the FDNY categorized it as a two-alarm fire.
It escalated to a five-alarm fire in just minutes. By 8 p.m., it was deemed a six-alarm.
According to the FDNY, wind gusts played a significant role in increasing the severity of the fire.
“The wind conditions are very serious and severe tonight, we had 20 to 30 mile-per-hour winds gusting to over 40 miles-per-hour,” FDNY Chief of Department John Sudnik said at around 9 p.m. from the scene.
“We pulled all firefighters out for safety reasons and operated with exterior tower ladders — it is now a total exterior operation. We are operating at six alarms with a total of 250 firefighters and emergency medical service members. The fire is still doubtful at this time.”
Sudnik said the building consisted of 54 units and that, by 9 p.m., the entire roof had collapsed onto the top floor.
“Optimally we like to operate with the wind at our back, but in this particular case we were operating directly into the wind,” he said. “There were very serious conditions on the top floor for our firefighters.”
Four civilians and 19 firefighters were injured, Sudnik said, but no injuries were life-threatening.
Firefighters have been on the scene for more than 12 hours and, as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday, the blaze had still not been deemed under control by officials.
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca took to Facebook Wednesday to warn residents to avoid the area.
“Residents and business owners should be cautious of smoke and avoid the surrounding area if possible,” he posted.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those whose homes are affected and loved ones who may be hurt. I am in contact with FDNY, other City agencies, and the Red Cross to manage this situation and ensure that residents have a safe place to sleep tonight. Please be safe, and call 911 in case of emergencies.”
The 72nd Precinct tweeted that any residents affected by the fire should temporarily relocate to P.S. 168 at 4305 Seventh Ave., where cops and community members were ready to offer assistance.
“In the gymnasium, the school has opened up for the families,” Menchaca explained. “If you are an impacted family, we want you to come and talk to the Red Cross to see if they can put you up in a hotel. If you have a spot or place to stay with a family member or friend, we ask you to stay there and wait until they control the fire.”
Locals said the blaze could be seen from several blocks away.
“Yesterday’s fire was the most devastating fire that I’ve ever seen in Sunset Park,” said Tony Giordano, who runs Facebook’s Sunset Parker page. “City records show that it has 54 apartments. FDNY reports that 90 residents were displaced — including 13 children.
“The bad news [is that] the entire roof collapsed in onto the sixth floor destroying all those apartments,” he added.
Sunset Park resident Marion Palm said that on Wednesday night, a firefighter told her that the building “is a total loss” since it’s soaked with water.
“Every morning at around 8 a.m., I take this walk in the neighborhood. Some of the usual streets I take are blocked. I expected to see windows boarded up, but nothing like this,” she said. “The firemen are still pouring water on smoke coming out of the building. I’m born and raised here and never saw anything as big, ever.”
Village of Sunset Park member Ramon Acevedo said on Facebook that donations are currently being accepted at the Church of the Redeemer, 4717 47th St.,for those in need.