Fire mistakes lead to injuries on LES

March 28, 2008 7:37:51 PM PDT
Two people remain in critical condition after a high-rise fire in lower Manhattan Thursday night.The fire broke out at a 26-story building on the Lower East Side. Now, fire investigators say the panicked residents made many mistakes in their rush to try to get to safety.

And those mistakes led to injuries, as well as allowing the fire to spread even faster.

Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett has more.

You name it, and they did it wrong, from the cause of the fire right on down to the way people reacted to it. The injuries were totally unnecessary, and the fire itself never should have happened.

Charred remains are all that is left of apartment 3B, where the flames were so intense that entire bedrooms were incinerated and everything else melted in the seering heat.

The tenants were not home when the fire broke out, and they were not injured. But dozens of others were. They were people who fled their apartments because they smelled smoke and panicked. Some were nearly asphyxiated when they took the elevator or ran down the smokey stairwells.

Roy Holloway knows, because he was there.

"My sense is there was a lot of panic," he said. "And when people panic, they're not thinking. And instead of staying within the unit, there's a tendency to go out, which means you're going into danger."

If the fire is in your apartment, get out. But also confine the fire by closing the door tightly. And, of course, call 911.

If the fire is not in your apartment, stay inside. Make sure your door is tightly closed, and if you're unsure about what to do, call 911.

That is exactly what Roy did with his elderly mother.

"I put a towel under the door, locked the door and proceeded to the bedroom, where there was strong ventilation, and I stayed there," he said.

Not only were the injuries entirely avoidable, the fire itself was entirely preventable.

"We had a power strip with all sorts of electrical wiring around it," FDNY Deputy Chief James Daley said. "There was a laptop, there was a computer, two lamps and an alarm clock."

Neighbors we spoke to say it's a valuable lesson.

"It makes you think that you have to be careful how you plug your things in," neighbor Yira Huertas said.

Two tenants are in critical condition. A woman and her daughter remain in the hospital. This is not to mention the danger to the firefighters. All of this was totally avoidable.