Midtown fire considered suspicious

March 6, 2009 3:52:39 PM PST
The FDNY says the fire that started in Midtown Manhattan this morning is suspicious. The cause is under investigation by the fire marshals. Flames ripped through the stairway of the building on Ninth Avenue when it started just before 1:40 a.m. this morning.

Eyewitness News is told six residents were rushed to St. Vincent's Hospital with serious but non life threatening injuries.

One was reportedly a baby who suffered burns on the chest.

"It was the scariest thing I ever saw in my life. The lady actually had a baby in her hand, and she had one leg over the window seal...We told her to calm down and we started getting on the phone to call the cops," one witness said.

Officials say the fire started in the lower portion of the stairway and raced up, trapping tenants in their apartments. Frightened residents rushed to the windows and fire escapes, where firefighters used rescue buckets to pluck them to safety.

"We had to get out through the fire escapes in the back. We could not go out through the door because the handles were too hot," said one resident.

The heavy damage to the stairwell rendered the building uninhabitable.

The building has a restaurant, Il Punto, on the first floor and four stories of apartments above.

Fire marshals were still on the scene at noontime.

Based on what residents say, it appears it started at the bottom of a stairwell where non-residents have been known to illegally congregate to smoke and drink.

Stay with Eyewitness News and 7online.com for more on this developing story.

WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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