Fire burns through LES high-rise

March 27, 2008 8:39:32 PM PDT
A fire at a high-rise apartment building on the Lower East Side left two people with life-threatening injuries Thursday. Fifteen others also have been hurt.

Authorities say the fire broke out at 460 Grand Street, near Ridge Street.

The blaze started on the fourth floor of the occupied 26-story building, according to authorities.

The FDNY says two civilians have been hospitalized with severe injuries. Six more civilians and nine firefighters suffered less serious injuries.

Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Pegues has more.

Flames shot from windows in the high-rise, and the street was packed with terrified residents.

"Within five-10 minutes, the apartment started filling with smoke," one resident said.

The thick black smoke was traveling from the third and fourth floors all the way to the top floor of the building. It choked residents and the firefighters who'd come to help them out.

"We had two mayday calls," FDNY Deputy Chief James Daley said. "We had two firefighters who were disoriented, trying to exit the fire apartment as their low-air alert went off.''

FDNY officials say 40 firefighters responded to the scene, leading concerned residents from their smoke-filled apartments and helping with the injured.

Fire officials say two people suffered serious injuries.

"It appears that possibly, they came down in the elevator, and it might have opened on the fire floor," Daley said.

But it could have been much worse. Fortunately, because the building is fireproof, the flames were contained to just three rooms of an apartment.

It was a relief for people like Raoul Torres.

Earlier, he was watching as the flames and smoke threatened the people he loves. Now, he's just happy they're OK.

"My family is fine," he said. "That's my main concern. I don't care about the building. Just care about my family.''